It used to be the case that wrongly convicted people, The Birmingham Six for example, were refused parole because the English parole system assumed that all convicted persons were indeed guilty. In order to be paroled, a convicted person was required to sign a document in which – among other things – they confessed to their crime(s).
Someone refusing to sign such a declaration of remorse would end up spending longer in jail than a genuinely guilty person would have.
The system changed in 2005, and since then a number of prisoners have been paroled without ever having admitted any guilt.
A “perverse verdict” is where a defendant is convicted who shouldn’t have been – based on the evidence presented in court.
English law has no means of correcting this type of error: appeals are based solely on new evidence that has arisen, or perhaps errors made by the judge or prosecution, or because of jury irregularities. Errors made by the defence are not grounds for appeal in English courts.
In 1997, after a series of high-profile cases during the 1990’s were revealed to have been miscarriages of justice (often due to the police fabricating evidence, either to ensure a conviction or simply to obtain higher conviction rates), the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was established – with the specific task of (re)examining any possible miscarriages of justice.
Having a case accepted for review by the commission still requires either strong new evidence of innocence or proof of a legal error by the judge or prosecution.
Merely insisting you are innocent, or that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, is not enough.
The waiting list for cases to be considered for review is, on average, two years.
Ben’s case has been with the CCRC since 2010.