I seem to spend an improbable amount of time on trains. Mostly to and from the Westcountry and Paddington, on which station I am now an expert. If you need to find a free loo or handy powersocket, I'm yer man.
Today – a rare weekend excursion – I'm off to points Northwards to the www.FACTuk.org conference. This is behind closed doors and in an undisclosed location for the obvious reasons – FACT do the excellent if unpopular work of campaigning around false accusations of abuse. My attendance as a speaker is likely to be somewhat more awkward than my usual talks, as I am attending solely to explain how and why it was I came to make a false allegation myself some 15 years ago. Once I knew the guy was actually innocent, I withdrew my claim and have banged the drum for his innocence and against the police trawling process in such cases. Nevertheless, on the lies of others – cleverly manipulated by the police – the guy was convicted and served 12 years in prison. For crimes he did not commit I expect some harsh quesioning....but it is only fair I take it and just hope that my perspective on how the police manipulated their investigation can somehow help those fighting such cases.
In my work at Inside Justice one of the types of cases that cause me to groan with frustration are those characterised as "historical abuse". There are no forensics, rarely a clear alibi, and the whole thing reduces to "he said, she said". It is difficult to move such cases forward, especially once you realise that the Court of Appeal does not exist to correct a clearly insane jury verdict. No matter how mindboggling the verdict may be on the face of the evidence, that is not a ground of appeal. Being innocent isn't a persuasive argument to gain a hearing before their Lordships.
It is important, then, that those like myself who have been on the inside of such cases and investigations stand up and give an account of not only our own actions, but a clear analysis of how it is that the police can take an innocent man and marshall enough evidence out of thin air to have them incarcerated.
If attempting to redress these injustices at the end of the criminal justice process is so very difficult, perhaps it may be better to try to prevent them in the first place.
Off to take my lumps now. Ho hum.