Problem

Miscarriage of justice

Other Names:
Error of criminal justice
Judicial error
Perversion of justice
Malicious prosecution
Fallibility of law
Nature:
The condemning of an innocent party may result from such factors as: falsification of evidence; perjury; rejection of contrary evidence; professional negligence; prejudice; pressure of public opinion; dishonesty; juridicial unscrupulousness; bureaucratic inertia; or vested political, economic or professional interests. An innocent person, whether or not appeals subsequently establish his innocence, thus suffers all the economic and social penalties of the guilty, often with minimal compensation or none at all. Such errors, whether perpetrated deliberately or inadvertently, do not necessarily result in sanctions against those responsible, or in efforts to prevent their repetition.
Incidence:
In the UK in 1989 it was estimated that solicitors made mistakes in more than 50% of the divorce case petitions filed in some courts. Error rates of up to 32% occurred in issuing summonses or applications to start legal proceedings, 23% in warrants of execution, and 39% in written evidence supporting divorce petitions. Of 55,000 complaints from the public, 25% were concerned with delays, 15% were of negligence, 10% about overcharging, and 9% alleged shoddy work. In 1992 a series of miscarriages of justice caused by police fabrication of evidence or perjuring themselves had revealed a culture of institutional corruption with some 800 possible cases requiring further investigation.

In 1996 in the USA, three men, who had spent 18 years in prison for a double murder they did not commit, had chrages dropped against them and were released.

Claim:
The probability of miscarriage of justice is now so high that this is used as a major argument in countries considering (re)introduction of the death penalty.
Counter Claim:
Any judicial system is subject to error. Which is a greater miscarriage of justice; setting free a criminal who then kills, robs and rapes or an innocent person sitting in prison for life ? Society must minimize these miscarriages, but justice is difficult to find and moves from place to place.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
16.02.2000 – 00:00 CET