How much faith do you have in our justice system – Miscarriages of Justice
There is no doubt that there are flaws in the justice system. It is naive to think that out of all the convictions within the UK, or even the world, that not one of them is wrong. How much faith do you have in our justice system? Here are a few examples of miscarriages of justice that have occurred in the UK.
Sean Hodgson spent nearly three decades of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Following a wrongful conviction in 1979 for the rape and strangulation of barmaid Teresa de Simone, Hodgson went on to spend 27 years behind bars. De Simone’s body was found in the back of her Ford Escort in Southampton. She had been raped, then strangled with her gold crucifix necklace. Hodgson denied murder, but was convicted on the basis of false confessions he made prior, and blood type matches with samples at the scene.His defence team argued that Stock was a pathological liar who had mental health problems. But this was not enough to stop the conviction.
It wasn’t until 2009, that the case was reopened due to new analysis of the DNA evidence which did not match a sample from Hodgson. At the time of his conviction, DNA tests were unavailable and were not used in court until 1986. The real killer turned out to be David Lace, who killed himself in December 1988, ages 26. Hodgson was subsequently paid £1m by the government. He died three years later after being released.
Sally Clark, a Cheshire solicitor, was wrongly convicted for the death of her two sons, in 1998. Clark served three years in prison before being released on appeal.
Her first child, Christopher, died 1996 at just three months old. His cause of death was believed to be natural causes, most likely ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’. Clark’s second child, Harry, died just over a year later, aged two months in similar circumstances. This led to the Home Office pathologist who carried out the post-mortem believing the cases to similar to not raise suspicions.
Clark continuously denied smothering her children, believing that they had died naturally. But the Crown portrayed Clark as a ‘lonely drunk’ who resented her children for keeping her at home, away from her well-payed job as a solicitor.
At her trial, Professor Sir Roy Meadow was the lead expert at Clark’s trial to give evidence. He maintained that the chance of two cot deaths occurring in a single family was ‘one in 73 million’. Some say this was enough to tip the jury to a conviction. The Royal Statistical Society later wrote to Lord Chancellor that this figure had ‘no statistical basis’.
At her trial, the jury on a majority vote, sentenced Clark to two counts of murder and given a life sentence. Clark was warned that her solicitor background and being the daughter of a police officer, she would have to watch her back. Due to Clark not admitting her supposed guilt, it would be unlikely that she would be up for parole.
In 2002, the Criminal Case Review Commission, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal, after there was clear evidence that Harry had a staphylococcus aureus infection that had spread to his cerebral spinal fluid. Clark’s conviction was quashed and released from prison in January 2003, serving three years of her life sentence. Clark’s lawyers later stated that laboratory tests showed ‘lethal’ levels of bacterial infection which indicated that Harry died of natural causes. However, shockingly, the jury was not told of these tests. Alan Williams, the prosecution pathologist apparently knew of this evidence since February 1998 and was struck off the list of Home Office pathologists in December 2005. Prior to this, Professor Meadow was struck off by the General Medical Council in July 2005, but through the court of appeal in 2006, he was reinstated.
Unfortunately in events after, Clark was found dead in her home in 2007, due to acute alcohol intoxication. It was ruled her death was accidental. Her family stated that she “never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice”. Clark had undergone various assessments after prison and was diagnosed with a number of serious psychiatric problems including; ‘enduring personality change after a catastrophic experience, protracted grief reaction and alcohol dependency syndrome’.
Stacey Hyde spent five years in jail for the murder of her friend’s boyfriend. Hyde, aged 17, was jailed for a minimum of nine years, in 2010, for the stabbing of Vincent Francis aged 34.
Banwell and Hyde were friends, out drinking in September 2009. They returned that evening to Banwell’s flat that she shared with Francis. Hyde was woken in the night by Banwell being attacked by Francis. Hyde tried to intervene, and Francis started to attack her. Banwell was able to ring 999. The altercation resulted in Hyde picking up a carving knife and stabbing Francis in the back and chest.
The 999 call was played in court to the jury. Banwell says; “My boyfriend is smashing, beating up my friend, she’s a girl, I need the police ASAP.”
It continues, “There was a huge row and he hits me, and he started on, basically he hit me and he hit me so she hit him and now he has started on her and now they are hitting each other. I need the police.”
“Don’t f****** punch me, I’m on the phone to the police, don’t punch me, do you know what I mean, I’ve just got a smack in. No Stacey put that down.”
Banwell goes on, “She has got a knife, she’s got a knife, she’s got a knife. She’s stabbed him. Oh my, God, she has stabbed him.”
The court was told that after the stabbing Hyde told Banwell; “I did it for you because I don’t like the way he treats you.” Even though there was strong evidence that Hyde was acting in self-defence of herself and her friend, she was still convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It wasn’t until 2010, that the case was taken to the High Court on the grounds of fresh evidence to support a case of diminished responsibility due to a history of mental health problems suffered by Hyde, and being extremely vulnerable at the time of the offence. Hyde’s lawyers offered a guilty plea to manslaughter, but the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, refused and ordered a retrial for murder.
Following a three-week trial, the jury voted to acquit Hyde of murder, thus setting her free after serving five years. It was acknowledged by the prosecution that Francis has a history of violence, and there had been 27 separate incidents of domestic violence between Francis and Banwell. Hyde stated outside the court, “I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up. I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.”
The three cases above are just three of many which have gone under the radar of our current justice system. More examples include the ‘Birmingham six’, ‘Donna Anthony’ and ‘Angela Cannings’. The latter two both had Sir Roy Meadow giving expert evidence in their cases.
To find out information about miscarriages of justice and supporting non-profit organisations that deal with it, view the links below: