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Miscarriages Of Justice

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the support available for families of victims of miscarriages of justice. [124512]

[holding answer 8 July 2003]: Support from the Home Office is equally available to all prisoners' families and is not a ffected by any allegation that an individual is a victim of a miscarriage of justice.The Home Office no longer has responsibility for reviewing the convictions of prisoners. The Home Secretary's powers to consider alleged miscarriages of justice came to an end on 31 March 1997. These were replaced by new powers vested in an independent body, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has a main responsibility under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 to review suspected miscarriages of justice, and to refer a conviction, verdict, finding or sentence to the appropriate court of appeal when the Commission considers that there is a real possibility that it would not be upheld. Any family member can apply to the Commission on behalf of someone believed to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice. (The Commission will not generally review a case until the normal appeal process is exhausted). We would carefully explain this to family members writing to the Home Office and redirect them to the Commission.The Home Office is funding the Royal Courts of Justice Citizens Advice Bureau's Miscarriages of Justice Project which supports prisoners, who have had their convictions referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Commission, in the period leading up to their release and for up to six months after. This service would extend to providing advice on Family/Relationship issues.An individual whose conviction is overturned may be eligible for statutory or ex gratia compensation for a wrongful conviction and can apply to the Home Office. Both schemes are concerned only with the suffering of the victim of the wrongful conviction, so neither makes provision for compensation for the suffering of any relative or other third party. However, in deciding the amount of any compensation award made to an individual, the assessor will take into account the costs of prison visits and of any family campaign to get the conviction quashed.