The previous government demonstrated a complate lack of knowledge regarding the criminal justice system, even though they were in charge of it! Their argument was that there were safeguards in place for the wrongly accused, such as charging those who make false allegations – this is like finding a precious diamond in the street – it never happens. When false allegations are made, CPS who have worked the case are most reluctant to charge their star witnesses. The other so-called safeguards include, proving a case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt, (again an extremely subjective principle), but then they amazingly allow someone to utter false words in order to convict; the prosecution's ongoing duty to disclose unused material, but again this doesn't often happen (and yet convictions are not overturned because of it) and the right to appeal to a higher court for a review of the conviction, (a nightmare in itself), which of itself means a defendant can apply for leave to appeal but without grounds (a complex tangle of arguments of what constitutes grounds), they cannot appeal. Claiming innocence is not a ground for appeal, even though it should be. So where is the justice in all of this?
We need to reclaim the 'innocent until proved guilty' ethos if we are to have confidence in the criminal justice system, which currently beggars belief. It is vital we have 'justice for all' not just the victims, who are not served by sending innocent people to prison, when later those same guilty people have their convictions quashed because of mistakes and serious flaws that exist in the current system.
The present system needs reforming and now is the time to do it. That reform must not be at defendant's expense or by restricting their rights to a full and fair hearing, or restricting their access to justice, including an appeal. It's bad enough that the golden 'right to silence' has gone forever without infringing anymore rights. It's all very well saying prison is the best place for criminals but what about those who have been convicted because someone has made a false allegation or that that person is believed by the jury because of what they say or rather how the prosecution put the case forward, convincingly. The government must put an end to convictions by word only. Then perhaps the prison population might fall too, along with all the costs involved, which means savings across the criminal justice system as well.
I don't believe the coalition government will do any of the above, but if they are serious, perhaps they and we all should dread and fear the day we become the accused as it is that easy to convict someone under the current system.