Last week I co-Chaired the first ever parliamentary seminar on support for the families of victims of homicide who have experienced an unjust acquittal. David Heyes MP gave the opening address and Stephen Dorrell MP was my fellow co-Chair.
The seminar, organised by the support group Justice After Acquittal (JAA), brought together MPs, victims’ families and legal experts to hear how National Minimum Standards of support drawn up by JAA could be implemented.
I believe that it is extremely important that the families of victims of homicide are not abandoned should the defendants be acquitted. We heard heartbreaking testimony from families about the pain they experienced after an acquittal and the lack of support from the CPS and police. For them, it really is a case of double injustice and double trauma.
It is a testament to the work of Justice After Acquittal that the CPS now offers a meeting for victims’ families within 3 weeks of an acquittal and keeps in touch for 3 months; but there is still much more that needs to be done.
Police services from across the country need to engage with victims’ families after an acquittal and explain both the cold case review process and what constitutes new evidence to enable a further trial. There is some good practise, but it is patchy across the country, so I believe that the JAA’s National Minimum Standards should be implemented by both the police, CPS and National Homicide Service.
I am a member of the JAA Steering Group. Justice After Acquittal was JAA was founded in 2006 by Carole Longe and Ann Roberts. Carole’s daughter, Dr Nina Longe, was murdered in 2000 and the defendent was acquitted, against all the evidence. Ann’s son, Simon Roberts, was murdered in 2003 and the case terminated after a re-trial. The jury could not reach a decision and a verdict of ‘not guilty’ was recorded.Carole and Ann were not offered appropriate advice and support by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service.
JAA is campaigning for National Minimum Standards of support to be in place for families which experience an acquittal following a murder trial. This support should be offered by the Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the National Homicide Service working collaboratively together with the involvement of JAA and other voluntary organisations as chosen by the family. For further information on Justice After Acquittal see http://jaa-campaign.org.uk/