Justice

2018 – Time for a real modern slavery strategy?

This piece was originally published by René Cassin. Buried in last December’s early snow was a report that revealed that the Home Office’s modern slavery strategy is a strategy in name only. Over two years after the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act, this is deeply troubling. The report from the National Audit Office alleged that the Home Office is still struggling with data collection, delays and victim support. Not only have these flaws hampered its goal of ending victims’ suffering, but ineffectiveness has also led to a misguided allocation of resources. What the NAO’s report demonstrates is a lack of cohesion in central government’s approach to modern slavery. Long tagged as Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship policy, the reality beneath the slogans is that efforts to tackle trafficking and slavery have been patchy at best. In failing to define what progress would look like, the government has left it to local authorities, NGOs and the media to …

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 …