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3 minutes reading time (540 words)

Miscarriage of Justice

The criminal justice system’s reliance on flawed scientific evidence is breeding ground for miscarriages of justice. Key evidence against the Birmingham 6 at trial was that they had traces of explosives on their hands – later work showed the traces were likely from playing cards they handled. Reliance on scientific evidence has resulted in wrongful convictions when new science supersedes the old and some still protest their innocence to this day.

Kevin Nunn was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend in 2006. Her body was found near the river Lark in Suffolk. Nunn was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 22 years.

Nunn’s conviction was heavily dependent on an eye witness who identified him near to the victim’s home around the time of the murder. The defence made some headway in cross examining him. As a result, Nunn was convicted of murder with no forensic evidence linking him to the crime.

After his appeal was refused, Nunn requested disclosure of the case materials obtained from the scene of the crime. These exhibits were held by Suffolk police, who refused to provide access to them, and disputed his rights to them after his appeal was lost.

The forensic scientists at the time retained exhibits for further testing when science advanced. Science has in deep moved on, and now just a few molecules of DNA can be profiled to reveal who they came from. Amongst the case materials was a sample of sperm which was found on the victim’s thigh during a post mortem. On testing the sample, a DNA profile could not be obtained at the time as the sample was insufficient. Nunn could not be linked to the sperm as he had a vasectomy prior to the murder of the victim.

In a High Court Judicial review, and an appeal to the Supreme Court, the court refused access to case materials preferring to rely on the Criminal Cases Review Commission to use its power to require disclosure of case materials, and to investigate the case.

In 2015 Nunn submitted an application to the CCRC to exercise its powers of compulsion to ensure scientific retesting of case materials and review his conviction. His application was accepted by the CCRC who are currently commissioning the further testing of exhibits from the scene of the crime.

Nunn hopes for a breakthrough in the new scientific examinations of the case materials which could lead to his freedom after serving more than 10 years in prison for committing a crime he has always denied.

In the US, some startling results have resulted from their criminal justice system encouraging the use of new DNA techniques on old exhibits. In 2015, Joseph Sledge was released from prison after serving four decades in prison for a crime he never committed. He was wrongly convicted of stabbing both a mother and daughter to death in their home in Elizabethtown in United States. A DNA expert told the courts that the evidence obtained did not match Mr Sledge. Sadly, in the several hundred cases where DNA has exonerated those convicted, there are a number where the prisoner was executed before the exoneration.

Nunn awaits the day he regains his freedom and continues to protest his innocence.

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