Not guilty but still punished – report

Scales and woman statue © Michael CoghlanWe have recently commissioned Professor Anne Power and Dr Bert Provan at the London School of Economics (LSE) to report on the housing challenges faced by many victims of Miscarriages of Justice. The report, to be presented to minsters following the general election, will call for policy and operational change in the treatment of individuals who can find themselves homeless as a result of wrongful imprisonment by the State.

This report flows on from key learnings gleaned by Commonweal from the joint Miscarriages of Justice (MOJ) project developed in partnership with Miscarriages of Justice Support Service – based at the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau (part of the CAB network).

Keep an eye on our website for the final report, which will be available in May.

An unfair system for victims of Miscarriages of Justice

The project was prompted from the realisation that despite being innocent and having spent many years in prison, victims of this injustice are ejected from the prison system without any of the ‘normal’ rehabilitation or resettlement support provided by the Probation Service and others for those who are guilty of their crimes.

For some, this immediate release can leave them literally homeless on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice. For others, whilst they may be able to return to family or friends, for too many of these, relationships breakdown sooner or later and individuals can find themselves at a point of crisis and at immediate risk of homelessness.

Many of those who subsequently approach local authorities seeking support under the Homelessness legislation are refused support either through lack of local connections or as predominantly single people, not necessarily with any obvious physical or other vulnerability, they are not considered to be in priority need and eligible for support.

Commonweal with the MJSS developed a two stage housing and support ‘pathway’ giving individuals the opportunity to access stable and accessible housing whilst other support services could be called upon – avoiding the trauma of sofa surfing or potential street homelessness.

Close of MOJ project and next steps

By early 2014 it was felt that the model developed was not working as envisioned, that the solution had been over engineered. There was also a change in the law pushed through by the Government which meant that the likelihood of compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice was significantly reduced. Compensation awards were a core consideration in the eventual exit route from the Project; they were also fundamental in helping individuals
meet their own future housing needs thus avoiding the need for local authority /
homelessness support.

Despite its short period of operation, the MOJ Project was therefore withdrawn as an active action learning project for Commonweal. However, our new report will bring together our experiences and use them to lobby for change for this grossly wronged group.

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