UK Politics

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 …

Modern slavery and the media: What we don’t know can hurt us

This piece was originally published by René Cassin. Who has read about John Lewis and Habitat’s decision to stop selling a range of granite worktops over worries that slaves played a part in making them? When the news broke early this month, only The Guardian and The Metro gave it airtime. An imbalance is hardening in the British media. What the public knows about modern slavery relates overwhelmingly to the prosecution and conviction of criminals. But that’s only a fraction of the story – and, when it comes to slavery, what we don’t know really can hurt us. The more mugshots fill front pages, the harder it is to see the bigger picture. For newspapers chasing headlines, supply chains and victim protection rarely fit the bill. At the centre of Britain’s problem with slavery, though, are the hidden tentacles of networks that reach well beyond our borders. Modern slavery is as much about the businesses and …

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 …