The Supreme Court ruled upon the Kevin Nunn case recently when the judges decided prisoners should not retain the same rights concerning disclosure of the evidence as they had pre-trial. Once an individual is convicted they cannot simply request access to documents or forensic samples as they could, had such a request been submitted pre-trial.
This stance by the Supreme Court judges is puzzling me. What they are saying is the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) can be trusted to request any document or forensic sample to be re-tested and re-examined as they have what is known as ‘Section 17 Powers,’ (S.17) to request disclosure of everything should they choose to do so.
At one level this statement is 100% correct, but the Supreme Court judges are well aware of what the reality is. The CCRC will not deploy their powers under S.17 in 99% of the applications made to them for further investigations. They have so many requests for help in re-investigation of possible miscarriages of justice that a case workers sifting process can take many years to be completed and the person in jail and contesting their conviction has almost no opportunity to search for ‘fresh evidence’ capable of casting real doubt about the safety of their conviction.
The CCRC require the applicant to submit compelling fresh evidence before deploying their S.17powers, the classic circular argument ‘I can only submit fresh evidence if I can obtain new material from the police/CPS that has not been disclosed to me previously.’ The police and CPS won’t accept my requests for fresh material to be made available to me unless I present a compelling argument to the CCRC first.
Innocent people will have no insight into the circumstances surrounding the crime they are convicted of. Therefore, they won’t have any idea about what areas of the evidence it was that police used against them which should be open to questioning its validity. An innocent person will know nothing more than the fact they didn’t do it.
In my own case I’ve had to suggest specific reasons why the silencer evidence was wrong. I also had to set out how I believe the silencer evidence was falsified using snippets of information gleaned from random documents. As more and more material evidence was disclosed to me during the last 28 years (particularly since the 2002 appeal) my arguments got closer and closer to the truth. Multiple police enquiries and 16 years with the CCRC as well as two appeal hearings and a trial, along with tens of thousands of hours hard work reviewing three and a half million pages of case documents and it is only now we know what Essex police concealed about the silencer.
Since 2002 we have had to fight tooth and nail to obtain two pieces of information from police to be disclosed under S.17 by the CCRC and even now the CCRC are unable to locate original documents using their powers under S.17 because they have been ‘mislaid’ by Essex police.
Discovering what the actual truth was has taught me a very valuable lesson. Most of all I have never doubted that justice would prevail no matter what: you never know what’s around the next corner. I feel for Kevin Nunn and all of his supporter’s but the truth will find a way to reveal itself large and so long as you stay strong on your path when a corner comes along the trick is to ensure that you look around every one because around that next bend may be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Do I think disclosure should be automatic on request? No, I don’t, but the hurdle that needs to be jumped should be set very low. In my case it shouldn’t have been necessary for me to wait almost 30 years for the true facts to be discovered by piecing together documents—that seems a long time.
“Wrong doing can only be avoided if those who are not wronged feel the same indignation at it as those who are.” Solon, (c. 638 – 559 BCE)
For more views on the ruling see: