Open Justice Initiative
Our justice system will only improve if it learns from its mistakes.
But a lack of transparency stops the justice system being held to account.
The criminal justice system has no effective mechanism to assess the accuracy of its results. We don’t know whether justice is being done in our courts and police stations as we can’t check the records of what actually happened.
Trial transcripts cost tens of thousands of pounds, meaning innocent people can't afford to prove what went wrong at their trials.
And too often, police won't allow access to evidence for new forensic science testing, or evidence is destroyed before it can be retested.
Violations of disclosure rules by police are occurring in 40.7% of cases, according to Inspectorate reports. Police failing to share key information from their investigation is the number one cause of miscarriages of justice. We do not believe that all police officers are cheating to win cases – often its matter of lack of resources or training. However, we do believe that the police should not be the ones to decide what gets turned over to the defence, as their job is to put together the case against the accused.
Read our joint written submission with the Cardiff University Innocence Project to the Justice Select Committee Inquiry on Disclosure of Evidence in Criminal Cases, calling for an independent disclosure agency here.
Disclosure problems are not fixed when you try to appeal your conviction. Institutions like the Criminal Cases Review Commission are so under-resourced they don’t have time to investigate disclosure issues by using their powers to read police files. The law as its stands says lawyers like us can’t have access to the information unless we can show what it will prove – a perfect Catch 22.
This has to change.
We are asking for a slate of reforms that will increase transparency in the criminal justice system to ensure accurate outcomes as well as genuine accountability. These are contained in the Open Justice Charter, developed by APPEAL and published in the Justice Gap's Proof magazine.