When I returned to England after nearly a decade in Louisiana investigating death penalty cases and litigating miscarriages of justice, I assumed that there was no such work needed in this country. High minded and generous British lawyers and law students donated their time with us in Louisiana and were horrified at what they saw of the criminal justice system there. I assumed this meant that all was well across the pond.
I could not have been more wrong. Not only has the criminal justice system in this country been brought to its knees by funding cuts, it is also set up in such a way that its mistakes cannot be effectively identified, rectified, or learned from.
The Centre was established to help change that. We are inspired by the American model of civil rights era non-profit law practices, focused on providing legal representation in high impact cases for people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer themselves.
The Centre is a charity made up of investigators and lawyers working full time on carefully selected cases that can be brought before the Court of Appeal in order not just to achieve justice for the appellants, but also to bring the system face to face with its flaws.
We represent a group of women and men who are a daily inspiration to us, with the stoicism they exhibit in the face of the terrible wrongs they have suffered. If these wrongs can be proven, we can prevent others from suffering the same fate.
The next five years are crucial. If we are to meet our goal, we need two things.
First, and as with any small charity, sustained funding is key. Legal aid pays for very little of the work we need to do to win a case. This means raising £220,000 per year from donations and grants to support our infrastructure and five full time staff.
Second, access to information. We need an open and accountable justice system that is capable of scrutinising it's mistakes. This involves advocacy at every level, from public law litigation to policy reform to parliament, so that we can empower the Court of Appeal to assess the safety of a conviction or fairness of a sentence fully informed rather than with only a fraction of the real picture.
Please consider supporting us however you can. Whether you are a donor, a volunteer, an expert or a campaigner, we need your help - we cannot win this fight alone.
Thank you for your interest in the Centre, and please join us in our fight for justice.
Founder, Legal Director