Wrongful convictions are an outrage, and we all want to see them eradicated. But it’s important to be proactive in preventing them, not just reactive when they occur.
To that end, here are some specific steps you can take:
- Before the trial begins, ask on your social network sites if anyone knows of a similar case where a conviction has been contested.
- Before the trial begins, talk to your friends about wrongful convictions and encourage them to support those who are involved in similar cases.
- During the trial, attend as many sessions as possible (and bring others along with you). A trial is a very difficult time for anyone caught up in it. Having friends and others in the public present to support them is of huge help, both emotionally and practically (to ensure that justice is done).
- After the trial has ended, ask around again for information about similar cases where a conviction has been contested and then make your views known on social media sites. Make sure you give people links to articles about what happened so they have accurate information to hand out.
- If you know anyone who was involved with the case, encourage them to contact local lawyers or other legal experts about appealing the sentence/conviction.
- Get involved with one of the many websites dedicated to wrongful convictions. There are several excellent ones: The Innocence Project, which accepts all cases (murder, rape, theft) where a wrongfully convicted person has been identified. It accepts cases worldwide; The Murder Review, which is dedicated to bringing together all the available new evidence in murder cases in England and Wales (no DNA or other tests are required); and Stone’s Inn, which does what it says on the tin: any post involving actual innocence, with no exceptions (murder, rape etc.).
- If someone you know is wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit and then goes on to spend time in prison for that crime, something very negative happens to their life chances. They may lose their job if they still have one; their family may break up; they may become ill from stress and worry; they struggle to get work because of their criminal record etc. Set up a fund to help them out (they may be reluctant to make money, but it is very much needed), and ask around for people who can provide practical support (such as accommodation or help with finding new work).
- If you think the conviction was not just, set up an online petition asking for reparation. If enough people do this, the government will have to look at what happened in that case and respond accordingly. Make sure your petition is direct and clear about what you want to be done – don’t beat about the bush.