Welcome to the Justice Gap newsletter No. 2.
First, a few brief words about www.thejusticegap.com
. Some of you know will know this already but the idea is for an online magazine about the law as it relates to ordinary people. We are not a lawyers’ discussion group. For other things we are and we are NOT, click here
. Basically, the Justice Gap is about journalism, taking a critical view of the law and justice from the perspective of the people for whom the law exists: not lawyers but you and me. Plus, it’s about shining a light on those parts of the justice system that don’t have much of an airing in the mainstream.
Thanks to everyone for your support since we launched on October 6th.
Big stories for us this month included:
WHAT PRICE JUSTICE?
The continuing debacle of the Cardiff 3 case. You can read Charlie Fox’s excellent and thought-provoking analysis of one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice HERE
'The real travesty is that no one will be brought to account for the actions of the officers in the original case. No one will ever know who, if any, of the officers found not guilty in the collapsed trial were morally guilty. We will never know who else should have been brought to trial. Where the criminal courts are concerned, the curtain has closed on the Lynette White murder saga. We now only have to await the results of the IPCC investigation into the South Wales Police handling of the recent trial.'
Matt Evans aso wrote about the Cardiff 3 debacle HERE
, also covering the news that Sgt Mark Andrews was to be reinstated despite seemingly damning video evidence of him allegedly mistreating a prisoner. Matt quoted Lord Denning’s notorious 31 year old dismissal of the first appeal of the Birmingham Six: ‘If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous… . That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say: "It cannot be right that these actions should go any further".’
‘Lord Denning, less a voice of judicial good than his supporters claim, was of course proved entirely wrong when after a further 11 years in jail the ‘Birmingham Six’ convictions were quashed in 1991 in a blizzard of appalling evidence of police collusion, threats and violence toward the suspects. He was also wrong as regards what a ‘sensible person’ would believe about the police. Even in 1980 the idea of police officers as a cross between Dixon of Dock Green and Mr Plod from Noddy was patently ridiculous. There is a growing acceptance that many in the police view themselves as above the law, untouchable – something the contrasting fortunes and misfortunes of the main players in these sorry sagas confirms.’
We are publishing Wrongly accused: who is responsible for investigating miscarriages of justice
next month featuring essays from a range of leading lawyers, academics, and journalists including Mr Justice Sweeney, Michael Mansfield QC, and David Jessel. Thanks to Wilimington and the Solicitors Journal
for their support - in particular Jean-Yves Gilg and John Tarry.
WHISTLEBLOWING, GAGGING CLAUSES AND THE NHS:
We also blew the whistle on the NHS serving employees with gagging clauses in an attempt to silence them. Dr David Drew (@NHSwhistleblowr on Twitter) wrote about his own experiences HERE
. Dr Drew was recently dismissed after 37 years as NHS paediatrician for gross misconduct and insubordination.
‘I believe that those of us who have suffered detriment including suspension, dismissal, financial and reputational loss have a right to ask a simple question. Why when we have done all we can to safeguard our patients’ interests, recognising the risks in doing that, are we punished while other professionals – cautious about their reputations, careers, and mortgages – continue without even a hint of criticism?’
Dr David Drew
BACK TO THE WAR ZONE:
We reported on government’s plans to start returning child asylum seekers to Afghanistan. The Home Office received 547 applications for refugee status from Afghan children last year.
‘It is hard to see how any of them can lawfully and safely be sent back while Afghanistan remains a death trap for lone children.
Francis FitzGibbon QC HERE
SUPERDRUG – AND THE £1.99 SANITARY TOWELS:
We also shone a light on what Citizens Advice calls ‘a secretive, exploitative and quite possibly unlawful practice’ known as ‘civil recovery’ used by retailers against alleged shoplifters. The practice involves agents the likes of Asda, Boots, Debenhams, Iceland, Primark, Superdrug, Tesco and TK Maxx sending out demands to those accused of shoplifting threatening civil court action unless they pay a fixed sum of up to £150. Citizens Advice argue that there is ‘no obvious legal basis’ for such ‘fixed sum’ demands and reckon many recipients are guilty of ‘nothing more than an innocent mistake’ for example a genuine error at a self-service till.
Citizens Advice joined the Libel Reform Campaign
after they were threatened with libel action by firms employed by High Street stores over their expose of the practice. Richard Dunstan writes about ‘civil recovery’ and the threats of libel HERE
You can also read about the extraordinary lengths that Superdrug went to purse an absent-minded mum for attempted theft of a £1.99 pack of sanitary towels she left in the hood of her child’s buggy.
IF YOU ARE FEELING FESTIVE:
then read Jules Carey's thoughts on the Garden of Eden - and total policing.
: We’re grateful to all our wonderful contributors: Andrew Jefferies QC
; Andrew Keogh
; Annie Barwick
; Barbara Hamilton-Bruce
; Charlie Fox
; David Edmonds
; David Jessel
; Dr David Drew
; Eamonn O'Neill
; Emma Friedmann
; Felicity Gerry
; Francis FitzGibbon QC
; Grant Howell
; Ian Robertson
; James Sandbach
; Jules Carey
; Juliet Shaw
; Kim Evans
; Kitty Stainsby
; Liz Fisher Frank
; Marc Gander
; Mark George QC
; Maslen Merchant
; Matt Evans
; Michael Mansfield
; Nathaniel Mathews
; Paul Bernal
; Ralph Barrington
; Richard Dunstan
; Russell Conway
; Shami Chakrabarti
; Simon McKay
; Steve Cornforth
; Susannah Mengesha
Please do keep your ideas coming – and thanks for your support.
Thanks to our associates: Instant Law; Duncan Lewis; Tuckers; Crimeline; Forshaws Davies Ridgway; Epoq; Jures; The Byfield Consultancy; Underwoods Solicitors.
If you want to become an associate, then let us know.
We are also grateful to Ben Barker of Designers Front and Kira Salter for their superb help with the website over the last few months and Sehb Hundal for coming up with the Xmas cartoon. More thanks to Yasmin Waljee, Karen Snell and Alli Wakefield at Hogan Lovells for hosting this year’s Prisoners Advice Service annual debate part of the Justice Gap
series (which included Jonathan Aitken, Lord Ramsbotham and was compered by Erwin James).
Special big thanks to Kim Evans, commissioning editor.
Season’s greetings - and see you in the New Year!