‘bound by injustice’ – a community of wrongful conviction survivors

The impact of wrongful imprisonment extends far beyond prison walls and unfair sentences are not just served by those we represent. Our clients’ loved ones – their partners, children, parents, siblings, and friends – suffer the injustice alongside them.

Unfortunately, there is very little support available to those experiencing a miscarriage of justice and often, survivors have to contend with the upheaval they cause alone. Whilst fighting exhausting legal battles, our clients and their loved ones face isolation from their communities, unwanted media attention, and financial hardship. As a result of the wrongful conviction, those we support find themselves experiencing multiple disadvantages, including poverty, unemployment, poor health and social exclusion.

A key issue for those experiencing a miscarriage of justice is the lack of mental health support available to them. In 2005, the psychiatrist Adrian Grounds wrote about the psychological consequences of wrongful imprisonment, characterising it as profound and persistent. Almost twenty years on, Grounds suggests there has been little improvement. Whilst they’ve tried, very few of the survivors we support have been able to access adequate support through the NHS and many cannot afford to pay for therapy privately.

Our team at APPEAL has been struck by how little support there is for exonerees, those still fighting a wrongful conviction, and their loved ones. We recognised that our clients and their loved ones wanted to speak to others going through similar experiences, so we formed Bound By Injustice (‘BBI’) in 2018 to establish a community of survivors that could seek support from each other. Since its inception, BBI has grown and evolved, becoming a community of over 45 survivors, of all ages and backgrounds.

In 2020 our Survivor Advocacy Leads, Sue Beere and Cath Snow, joined APPEAL. A formidable team, they have increased our capacity to provide holistic well-being support to BBI and have ensured those with living experience are a core part of our policy and campaigning work.

Now a flourishing source of peer-support, BBI meet as often as possible at retreats designed and organised by our Survivor Advocacy Leads. For example they delivered a two-night retreat in Oxford that included facilitated workshops, children’s activities and social time. Everyone in the group bonded over their shared experiences, but the most notable connections were made between our very youngest BBI members, who have since formed their own group, Youth Bound by Injustice (YBBI).

Members of BBI say that it offers a safe place to share joy, sadness, encouragement, success, and losses with others who ‘get it’.

“BBI is a safe place where there is no judgement. As well as this, the events and retreats held by the group provides a ‘family’ environment and allows everyone to understand the different battles that people are fighting and allows for support and personal growth. The sense of support that the group provides is unbelievable” — A young member of Bound by Injustice

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APPEAL is the working name of the Centre for Criminal Appeals, a Charitable Company Limited By Guarantee and a law practice authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Registered Charity Number: 1144162 | SRA Authorisation Number: 621184 | Company Number: 7556168