Justice

Peace activism and criminal damage: ‘When you’re a Quaker and a Methodist minister, juries tend to acquit’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. ‘We were about three metres away from the first plane when we got caught,’ says Dan Woodhouse, the Methodist minister who broke into a BAE Systems airbase this January. Along with fellow peace activist Sam Walton, Woodhouse had hoped to prevent British arms from making their way to Saudi Arabia. The pair was charged with causing £1,000 of criminal damage without a lawful excuse, but were recently acquitted at Burnley Magistrates’ Court. A district judge accepted their argument that they had acted for the greater good. Woodhouse and Walton, both experienced anti-arms activists, decided to take direct action because, in their view, they had exhausted all efforts to lobby MPs, demonstrate and sign petitions. ‘There’s a point when normal campaigning just doesn’t work because the government doesn’t want to hear it,’ Woodhouse suggests. ‘They just want to sell more weapons to Saudi. In the face …

One in five decisions by courts unsafe because of ‘misleading evidence’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. A new analysis of close to a thousand Court of Appeal cases over the last seven years has found that more than one in five decisions by lower courts (22%) were argued unsafe because they contained misleading evidence. The University College London study, which looked at the transcripts of 996 cases, also revealed that more than three-quarters of successful appeals (76%) were based on reinterpretations of the same materials available in the original trial rather than new information. Scientists Nadine Smit, Ruth Morgan and David Lagnado maintained that when forensic evidence misled judges and juries, it did so because of a misinterpretation of its relevance, probative value or validity. Their paper called on lawyers and expert witnesses to bring more transparency to the relationship between evidence and hypothesis, taking care to avoid ‘an erroneous understanding of the evidential value of evidence’. Belief in a …

New CPS guidance on joint enterprise ‘fails to get to grips’ with problem

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. New Crown Prosecution Service guidance has ‘completely failed to get to grips’ with joint enterprise, according to campaigners representing prisoners and their families. Following the publication of new principles on how to deal with the controversial common law doctrine back in July, the CPS launched a consultation which closed last week. The campaign group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) has collated responses including submissions from 17 joint enterprise prisoners and calls on the director of public prosecutions to back their call for a public inquiry. Under joint enterprise, a person on the fringes of a group in which somebody commits murder can receive the same mandatory life sentence as the perpetrator. In February 2016 in the landmark Jogee ruling, the Supreme Court held that the law had taken ‘a wrong turn in 1984‘. The judgment did not end joint enterprise – and the first tranche …