Miscarriage of Justice
Miscarriage of justice usually refers to the wrongful conviction of a person, which is, charging a person for a crime he or she did not commit in the first place. This is usually unfair to the convict as he has to suffer for something he had not done (Hilliard, 2017). There are many people in jails today who are innocent but have been termed guilty. Some of these people do not get their justice until they have completed their term in jail, killed as a form of punishment for that particular crime or has died in prison. Recently, death penalties have been minimized to avoid executing innocent people. There is also use of DNA tests that help to clear a person from the crime. There is also the existence of deliberate miscarriages of justice in criminal courts (Maguire, 2015). Here the legal procedures are not followed to the latter, and often people are convicted of something out of ignorance (Leo, 2017). There are several causes of a miscarriage of justice. These include;
The withholding of evidence
Here the evidence that could have been used to clear the person being convicted of a crime is destroyed or not produced at all. The evidence may be destroyed by the police during baseline mechanism at the crime scene or any other individual who wants to tamper with the case (Hilliard, 2017). In this case, the person will have no proof of his or her innocence and will hence have to pay for the crime that he or she is not even aware of.
During the collection of the evidence, the police may alter the evidence that may have cleared the person being convicted. This could be biased especially where the police have a connection with the person who wants to impeach a crime on another. Corruption may be involved to alter the evidence since some police officers are not morally upright (Naughton, 2014).
Erroneous identification by eyewitnesses
The witnesses of the crime may point out the wrong person causing him or her to be charged with a case they are not involved in. If a victim is pointed out by many witnesses, it’s not easy to for him or her to justify themselves (Sporer, 2014).
Agreement of the court and prosecutor
At times there is a biased agreement between the judges and prosecution team to frame the accused guilty. In as much as the judges know that the person is innocent, they will uphold the conviction and term him or her guilty. The court may not even listen to the justifications being aired by the victim since there is already an existing agreement to frame the victim.
The police may force witnesses to confess. Thus, people may be biased and confess in favor of the prosecutor due to fear of the consequences that may be involved if they confess otherwise. For example, if a witness does not confess as directed by the police, they may be killed. The fear of these consequences may lead to false confessions.
The data that may have been obtained at the crime scene may vary from the ones delivered to the justice court (Turvey, 2014). Forensics act as evidence and if the evidence does not favor the accused, a wrongful conviction may be made. The court may not even be aware of the distortion of forensics.
Bias by the investigators
The investigators of the crime may be biased on race, gender or the societal class and favor the prosecutor thus leaving the victim with no support. The judges will tend to rule in favor of the prosecutor since there will be proof that the victim committed the said crime.
Other causes of miscarriage of justice include; frame-ups by the real guilty person where they want to evade the conviction, bias of the social class where there is fondness of a particular class of people in the society, biased by race where there is preference of race than justice, for example, convicting a black person of a crime that he or she did not commit simply because they are black (Webster, 2014). Corruption of police officers and judges is also another reason where they will, in turn, favor the prosecutor leaving the victim to pay for the crime. Mostly death penalties are given to the convict in cases of miscarriage of justice. Even where the convict is not executed, there are long-term effects on the person and family even after their release from prison.
Consequences of Miscarriage of Justice
Effect on the Victim
Various repercussions result from the imprisonment of a person even upon release from prison. The effects include; the loss of families, anger, fears of imprisonments which are discussed below.
Loss of Injustice
The person who had been wrongfully convicted maof identityy lose his confidence, self-respect, self-love and eventually his identity. They may lack a sense of value to themselves since they feel misjudged and dishonored which makes them feel invaluable (Hoyle, 2016). Even upon release from prison, they may not feel at ease with themselves and may fail to go back to their old life before imprisonment.
Loss of families
After an imprisonment of a particular family member, the family may be disentangled and uneasy. Every person is important to their family, and if one is convicted of a serious crime, there is a loss of cohesion. Wives and husbands may separate and kids seized by children custody due to loss of control of families. Their lives are never the same again even after they are released from prison.
Anger and Aggression
Hatred is instilled in these victims even after they are released. This is because they feel that they are not considered at all. Their temperamental levels are increased than before imprisonment. It’s common to develop anger issues since the rights of the victims have been violated. The anger may also arise when the victims see another person being treated with injustice (Hoyle, 2016).
Heightened sense of injustice
The victims become more aware of the injustices that are happening. Upon release from prison, they are highly sensitive when something wrong is done to the other person (Howe, 2017). This is because they are already aware of how the injustice of law can affect a person both physically and emotionally. They do not, therefore, tolerate any injustice and would go out of their way to minimize injustice. Watching movies and reading books relating to injustice also affect these people emotionally since they can relate.
Fear of Arrest
Most of the victims do not feel completely free even after their release. They feel constrained and unable to move on with their daily lives. Their normal activities cannot go on easily. They become self-conscious and would do little productive things due to the fear of being arrested (Howe, 2017). They cannot run an errand without panicking as they try to escape the label of a prisoner that may be given by their neighbors. The victim of injustice continues, therefore, to suffer even after being released from prison. These people may need to go through sessions of counseling to enable them to diminish their trauma.
Effects on Justice System
The justice system will also affect by a miscarriage of justice. The consequences include;
Lack of trust from the general public
When the public learns of the injustices that are performed by the justice system, they lack trust in them and develop the fear of the courts as they view it as an injustice system (Hoyle, 2016).
Loss of it moral values
The system losses morality since people will associate it with corruption. This is not a good position for them since it shows the unreliability of the system to provide justice to the citizens without any bias.
The justice system may also suffer monetary losses since when they convict a person wrongfully, upon dismissal of the case, there has to be compensation of the victim. In the United Kingdom, the amount to be compensated is currently at a maximum of 500,000 pounds.
The Most Damaging Aspect of Miscarriage of Justice
The most damage is done on the culture of the society. Since the arrests at first appear rightful and justifiable, the public participates in encouraging the arrests. However, when the arrests turn out to be miscarriages of justice, the public may start being doubtful of the other convictions that are made by the justice systems and may affect a whole nation as the public lose their trust in the justice system completely (Hoyle, 2016). In as much as there are procedures set to correct the damage, the public does not get fully convinced by this and deems the system as false. It’s not easy to convince a large number of people that there was an error since they do not expect their justice system to make errors in the administration of justice.
There is also the development of false beliefs about a certain crime and others may even believe that some cases actually exist. Their views about a particular crime are changed completely about a crime. For instance, if a person is convicted of rape and it turns out it was a miscarriage, the public may start believing that rape is not a crime and the crime can be heightened. The media may also have a rough time trying to distort the information about a particular case that they may have earlier aired (Greer, 2017).
In the long run, there will be a high impact on the society and perception of crimes in the society may be changed hence distorting the culture of that society. The society may adopt certain activities which are not acceptable simply because there is confusion in the justice system. The trust they had earlier in the justice system is destroyed. Straightening up of the culture is not easy once it’s destroyed. Crimes such as cybercrime may be dismissed by the public as if they are not crimes at all thus heightening them.
Conclusively, miscarriage of justice affects a nation as a whole. Corruption should be looked into so that there will be a reduction in the cases of wrongful convictions. Victims of injustice should be treated with care and without discrimination. The justice system should always be on its toes and look deeply into the cases presented in courts to reduce miscarriages of justice and maintain cultural values
Greer, C. and McLaughlin, E., 2017. News Power, Crime and Media Justice. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, p.260.
Hilliard, C., 2017. The Littlehampton Libels: A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England. Oxford University Press.
Howe, M.L., Knott, L.M. and Conway, M.A., 2017. Memory and miscarriages of justice. Psychology Press.
Hoyle, C., 2016. Victims of the State: Recognizing the Harms Caused by Wrongful Convictions. The Changing Contours of Criminal Justice, p.270.
Leo, R.A., 2017. The criminology of wrongful conviction: A decade later. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 33(1), pp.82-106.
Maguire, E.R. and Duffee, D.E. eds., 2015. Criminal justice theory: Explaining the nature and behavior of criminal justice. Routledge.
Naughton, M., 2014. Criminalizing wrongful convictions. British Journal of Criminology, 54(6), pp.1148-1166.
Sporer, S.L., Malpass, R.S., and Köhnken, G. eds., 2014. Psychological issues in eyewitness identification. Psychology Press.
Turvey, B.E., and Cooley, C.M., 2014. Miscarriages of justice: Actual innocence, forensic evidence, and the law. Academic Press.
Webster, E. and Miller, J., 2014. Gendering and Racing Wrongful Conviction: Intersectionality, Normal Crimes, and Women’s Experiences of Miscarriage of Justice. Alb. L. Rev., 78, p.973.