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The Empowering the Innocent (ETI) Conference - 2023

Updated: May 3, 2023

The Wills Memorial Building, home to the University of Bristol Law School.

The Empowering the Innocent (ETI) organisation was founded by Dr Michael Naughton, law and sociology academic at the University of Bristol. Dr Naughton brought the university Innocence Projects to Britain in the 2000s under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK), arguably becoming the country's leading expert on miscarriages of justice in the process.

The cases of Jeremy Bamber, Robin Garbutt and Britain's longest serving prisoner maintaining innocence Clive Freeman amongst many others have been forensically covered through CCRC Watch. The claims of innocence of Andy Malkinson, Marilyn Manson and John Lee Osborne are three examples of those examined through False Allegations Watch (FAW), launched in 2022 - the most recent strand of ETI.

As a culmination of this recent activity and as a tie-in to a petition launched to reform the 'real possibility test' in an appeal to have the case of Freeman looked at by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), Dr Naughton organised the ETI Conference at the Wills Memorial Building, home to the University of Bristol Law School, on 22nd April 2023.

A bright Spring Saturday morning, and Dr Naughton introduced the day to a full house at the Coutts Lecture Theatre, including two representatives from the CCRC and one from the Law Commission. Your humble scribe followed, detailing the five years since the height of the #MeToo movement, and the various cultural politics that led us here. Charles Howeson's Tor Times magazine, Dr Naughton and Gabe Tan's Claims of Innocence, Margaret Gardener of FASO, present (and my own Compelling Speech – The Stammering Enigma) all received name-checks in a journey from inside to outside, from the perspective of a Bristol seagull.

Pop Art legend Jonathan King followed, having been something of a technicolor activist for the false allegations movement since going through the fire himself at the start of the century. 40 million record sales don't forget, plus stints as Eurovision head, and the revelation today that he may have been fingered by the authorities in a stitch-up to stop him becoming head of EMI. Oh well, maybe Elon Musk will buy that august monolith, and teach them a lesson in moving with the times.

'Using the law to break the law' is King's new theme, and his stage usurper was Joel Hicks, falsely accused as a teacher at a similar time. The difference is that Joel's accusers weren't actually the ones accusing him: it was the headteacher and other hostile actors at his school, in an egregious example of how third-party reporting can be weaponised to political-professional ends. How dare a handsome young man (think Jason Momoa in Game of Thrones) want to be a teacher at our school? Take him out before he shows us up!

There was time for optimism about becoming a barrister, actor, model and gravy-wrestler however, before the CCRC Watch section of the afternoon session. Jane Metcalfe has been a tireless activist on behalf of imprisoned postmaster Robin Garbutt for many years - constantly unfolding new pieces of evidence undisclosed by an extremely dodgy-looking local police force - with the insistence of the genuinely aggrieved. Private Investigator Mike Naughton of Lewis Legal followed, channelling both Dr Naughton in name and Paul Hollywood in appearance, as he detailed the ways in which due process is flouted by all authorities implicated in the False Allegations Industry (copyright JK).

The day was long and the security guard of the Wills Memorial Building (actually a folly, constructed as recently as 1924) gone home in a dudgeon before ETI student volunteer and 3rd year law student, Hannah Pickup, and Terry Wilcock explained how Clive Freeman has been languishing in prison for 35 years for an alleged murder that never occurred. Although 4 applications to the CCRC have so far been rejected, the delegates from the CCRC appeared to take note and even invited Clive Freeman's legal team and supporters to Birmingham to discuss the case prior to an imminent 5th application.

Michael Doherty, formidable slayer of the IPCC and any other force he sees abusing process, rounded out the day. There was even time for meaningful exchange between Doherty, Dr Naughton and the CCRC representatives – who in fairness were demonstrating a capability to at least attend and engage in gentlemanly fashion. But the point is that the CCRC is not meant to be an extension of the Court of Appeal which operates in an inferior position to it. It is meant to be a corrective watchdog, correcting miscarriages of justice.

The 'no new evidence' and trial error rules are overly prohibitive according to the review by the the Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice; so while it is to the good that the Post Office 'computer says no' scandal has received due attention, there are many more cases where justice has simply not been done.

A lack of reporting has led to a silent stain on the justice system, and the excuse of not having enough money is often trotted out by politicised types. But it doesn't take 10p to spot a (now highly televised) doctor changing his cause of death diagnosis after a letter from an investigator headed 'Dear Dickie'...

By Sean Bw Parker

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