Miscarriages of justice have left an indelible stain on the reputation of our criminal justice system. False confessions, flawed scientific evidence and non-disclosure by police, scientists and prosecutors of evidence vital to a defendant, have all played a part in keeping too many innocent people behind bars for too many damaging years.
The previous government’s response has been to provide greater safeguards against injustice for defendants – but to erode existing ones. The absolute right to silence has gone; while defendants will have to disclose less; the forensic science budgets have been squeezed; and three years after it was first recommended by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, the new independent authority for investigating miscarriages of justice has still not been set up.1
What Satish Sekar illustrates in this detailed examination of the murder of Lynette White and the miscarriage of justice that befell the Cardiff Three is how important such safeguards are. Even with the full right to silence, police obtained a damning and false confession in the case; the scientific testing of blood samples was neither conclusive nor revealed in its entirety to the defence; and as with most cases of alleged injustice the fight to get their case re-examined by the Court of Appeal has proved an uphill task.
In that struggle the Cardiff Three have been lucky in having Mr Sekar work painstakingly through the evidence, badgering lawyers, scientists, police and politicians with his findings. And even though the three are now freed and the injustice exposed, he fights on. His scrutiny of the DNA testing in the case has recently forced the South Wales Police to re-open the murder investigation.
Now, in Fitted In, he sets out the entire unhappy saga so that the public can see how easy it was to lock up the wrong men – and how we must ensure such mistakes are never made again. Mr Sekar says the memory of Lynette White deserves no less. Society and justice deserve no less.
1On April 1st 1997 the long awaited Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) started its work of reviewing alleged miscarriages of justice, although it has already attracted criticism from groups and individuals concerned with the issue of miscarriages of justice.