Justice after release?
Housing Options for victims of Miscarriage of Justice, report launched today
A report issued today by Commonweal, calls on the government to act to tighten guidance to local councils around their responsibilities to miscarriage of justice victims.
Read the report here MOJ Report FINAL
The report follows a pilot housing project Commonweal undertook to house miscarriage of justice victims.
The report details the lack of support available for victims of miscarriages of justice when they are released from prison. While many victims face complex issues arising from their conviction including post traumatic stress, social withdrawal and enduring personality changes, there is less official support available to them than there is to offenders through the probation service. The report highlights a “compounding injustice that the state does not provide imprisoned miscarriage victims with at least the same level of support offered to ex offenders” (p6).
The lack of statutory support available to victims can mean many who find themselves homeless and in need of support from social housing do not receive priority in local authority housing allocations. Some fail a local connection test owing to their imprisonment; others can be deemed to have caused their own homelessness (an odd notion when their imprisonment was due to a now acknowledged error by the State) or some may reject the one offer they receive from the local authority because of particular issues relating to their circumstances.
The report recommends measures to increase awareness across housing support services and intervention from the government to encourage local councils to recognise the vulnerability of miscarriage victims. In particular Commonweal are calling on the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP to follow the example set out by the Department Of Work and Pensions, which has explicitly recognised in its Work Capability Assessment that those who have experienced a miscarriage of justice should be entitled to special consideration due to the impact of their wrongful imprisonment.
Commonweal is pledging £20,000 in matched funding to establish a fund successful re-housing and re-integration of victims and calling for further support from interested parties.
The Chartered Institute of Housing, the professional body for the housing sector is supporting Commonweal’s campaign.
Chief Executive of Commonweal Housing, Ashley Horsey said
“Having been failed by the system in the most terrible way, victims of miscarriages of justice too often face a second injustice when attempting to access housing. Our report makes clear that through very little effort on behalf of the government they could act to encourage local councils to recognise miscarriage of justice victims as vulnerable and in priority need should they approach them as homeless”
Chartered Institute of Housing head of policy Melanie Rees said:
“It’s important that people who have been the victims of miscarriages of justice get the support they need to secure a stable and affordable home when they are released from prison to help them get their life back on track. CIH is pleased to support Commonweal Housing’s campaign and we would urge the government to take note of its recommendations.”
You can find out more about our project to house victims of miscarriages of justice here