In October 2007, 20 students were recruited from the Law School and attended an intensive training weekend prior to starting case work; the cases being provided from a national database.
The Project initially received funding from Lancaster Alumni via the Friends Funding Scheme, which enabled us to attend the national training weekend and to buy a computer and printer to assist with case work. This funding also allowed us to hold the Innocence Project launch in September 2008 - a well attended event, reported in the Lancaster Guardian, with speakers such as Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, who provided compelling personal insights into the devastating impact of miscarriages of justice on the individuals involved.
What is an Innocence Project?
An Innocence Project (IP) is a student led project focusing on the study of wrongful criminal convictions, with a view to referral back to the Court of Appeal via the CCRC. The idea started in Cardozo Law School in the US and has spread to Canada, Australia and the UK. Students are involved in investigating real criminal cases. They are supervised by academics and work in conjunction with practicing lawyers. Assistance is provided pro bono to prisoners who maintain their innocence and have exhausted their appeal rights.
What do students get out of it?
Student education or training is an important part of the Project and involvement provides the opportunity for students to gain experience in areas such as critical thinking and analysis, case management, fact finding and other skills such as collaboration, teamwork and presentation (oral and written). These skills are now in demand amongst students and increase employability as well as enhancing/building upon skills learnt on other courses.
In common with other UK Projects, the Lancaster University Innocence Project has stimulated team working, encouraged students to 'think outside the box', required student liaison with legal professionals, insisted the students deal with one another in a professional manner, demanded problem solving, creativity and strategic thinking, unearthed untapped reserves of motivation, altruism and initiative, developed communication skills and persuaded the students that they can have influence, power and passion!
What are we working on at the moment?
Since its inception, the Project has gone from strength to strength. We are currently working on five cases. We have also forged links with barristers from Garden Court North Chambers in Manchester, who have provided invaluable support to us in the casework and as guest speakers. We have recently seen one of our cases appealed to the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately, the appeal was unsuccessful but leave has been sought to appeal to the Supreme Court.
If you would like any further information on the Lancaster University Innocence Project, please email the staff supervisor, Louise Rae.
Thanks to all the students, past and present, who have worked so hard to make the Project a success from the beginning and to Richard, Kim and Kayleigh who started the ball rolling at Lancaster.