***IMORTANT NOTE: INNOCENCE NETWORK UK (INUK) IS NO LONGER AN UMBRELLA ORGANISATION FOR INNOCEMNCE PROJECTS IN THE UK***
This website, however, will remain for the foreseeable future as a legacy of the work and activities conducted under the auspices of INUK. It provide a rich resource of information and open access to a range of academic researches to assist those working to overturn alleged wrongful convictions or conducting research so that wrongful convictions might be better understood, remedied and, ultimately, prevented.
Innocence Network UK (INUK) was established by Dr Michael Naughton, an academic specialising in the study of miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions. It was set up as a practical response to the apparent failures of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), set up in the wake of notorious miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. In particular, the CCRC fails to ensure that innocent victims of wrongful convictions who apply to it will have their cases adequately investigated, referred back to the appeal courts, and, most importantly will have their convictions overturned if they are referred. Overall, the CCRC is not the hoped for or expected solution to the perennial problem of the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent that plagues the criminal justice system. As such, until and unless the CCRC is reformed or replaced, innocent people will continue to languish in prison and some may never be released.
INUK was established in September 2004 and was active until January 2015, acting as an umbrella organisation that facilitated the establishment and supported the subsequent running of 36 member innocence projects in the UK – 35 in UK universities and one in a corporate law firm.
INUK ceased this role for two main reasons: 1. there was a general lack of interest and input by its member innocence projects to assist with the work of INUK; and, 2. and perhaps most crucially, there was a general failure by member innocence projects at the time to comply with the caseworking protocols that they had signed up to and agreed to work to (validated by the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee), meaning that many of the 100+ cases referred by INUK to member innocence projects were not being sufficiently worked on and potentially innocent victims of wrongful convictions and imprisonment were being let down.
On the other hand, some notable INUK member innocence projects did work well with the University of Bristol Innocence Project, for instance, making submissions and full applications on behalf of ‘clients’ to the CCRC (R v Hall, 2011) and Scottish CCRC (Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate, 2013) who had their convictions successfully referred back to the appeal courts.
The overturning of Dwaine George’s murder conviction in December 2014, a case assessed and referred by INUK to Cardiff innocence project, provided further evidence of INUK’s success in identifying victims of wrongful convictions who have been failed by the existing criminal appeals system and the CCRC and cemented the evidence for the necessity and potential of innocence projects in the UK under the existing arrangements.
Overall, then, we celebrate the contribution that INUK made in establishing a new form of legal education in UK universities and beyond. Cases referred by INUK to member innocence projects have been shown to have been meritorious and to have fallen through the existing criminal appeals and CCRC systems.
Be assured that going forward we will continue to keep a watchful eye on the 100 or so other cases that we assessed as eligible and referred to universities. We hope that those who took on those cases of alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment who may be innocent will pursue all leads and explore all available forensic science techniques and possibilities in attempts to settle the claims of factual innocence one way or the other in the quest for justice for the wrongly convicted and the victims of crime at the centre of those cases.
The ball is now firmly in the court of the individual innocence projects and other criminal appeal and miscarriage of justice schemes set up to rival INUK just as they wanted. It’s now over to them………
INUK’s three interrelated purposes:
INUK provided access to a repository of Dr Naughton’s published researches on a range of different aspects relating to wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.
INUK’s newsletter, INQUIRY, is also a rich resource of articles and guides on how to investigate and overturn alleged wrongful convictions from other leading experts in the field, victims, practitioners and academics.
INUK employed an array of public engagement strategies to draw attention to the intentional wrongs and unintentional ‘errors’ of the criminal justice system that cause the wrongful conviction of the factually innocent and the limitations of the criminal appeals system and the CCRC to deal with claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful convictions.
Overall, INUK aimed to influence public discourse, contribute to reforms of the criminal justice system and changes to prison and parole practices by educating about wrongful convictions and their harmful consequences so that the factually innocent are better placed to overturn their convictions and/or make progress or achieve release from prison.
It is important to note that INUK did NOT itself undertake casework into alleged wrongful convictions, it did NOT give legal advice and it was NOT a campaigning organisation or victim support group.
In specific terms, INUK served its member innocence projects by assessing claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful convictions and acting as a clearing house for referring eligible cases (i.e. cases in which something could be done to determine whether the claim of factual innocence was valid or not; truthful or not) to member innocence projects to further investigate and build upon lines of inquiry that arose in the assessment.