Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

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Legal experts warn of wrongful convictions due to law change

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 5.

WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS and miscarriages of justice are likely to increase because of a new law which came into force in April, legal experts say.

The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, which became law on April 1st, limits the amount of material the police have to give to defence lawyers.

Previously, because of numerous high-profile miscarriages of justice, the prosecution in any case had to disclose all the information it had to the defence.

Now, for the first time, the defence must return the 'favour' to the prosecution and hand over its information.

But how much information is given to the defence is left to the police officer in charge of the case. The Act says they must hand over anything that undermines the prosecution case.

But the decision as to whether information would undermine the defence case is left to the police officer in charge.

"We are going to have miscarriages of justice unquestionably," Michael Zander, professor of law at the London School of Economics, said. "If you leave it to a police officer to decide what he thinks is going to help the defence, it's going to lead to material not being handed over. It's a very worrying development."