Justice After Acquittal

The belief that the Scales of Justice are balanced when delivering the rule of Law, for me was never in doubt, or something to question!  I grew up believing that 'good' outweighed 'bad' and criminals, especially violent cold blooded killers, were 'not above the Will of God or beyond the Rule of Law!'

Justice After Acquittal

A Question of Justice After Acquittal...by Ann Oakes-Odger MBE

The belief that the Scales of Justice are balanced when delivering the rule of Law, for me was never in doubt, or something to question!  I grew up believing that 'good' outweighed 'bad' and criminals, especially violent cold blooded killers, were 'not above the Will of God or beyond the Rule of Law!'
Justice would always prevail...the Law 'rights' the 'wrongs' in Society and punishes the 'wrongdoers!'  But, behind this rosy ideology is a stark reality...Justice is not always that straight forward.  Sadly, this reality is often the experience of many murder victims' families who find themselves thrown into the bewildering world of the Criminal Justice System.  The guilt of a person charged is ultimately decided by a Jury of 12 men good and true, who must consider their decision...'beyond reasonable doubt!'  However, some Jury verdicts defy belief, especially an Acquittal that is a 'perverse verdict'.  This is where a person is acquitted, against all the evidence presented, pointing to their guilt?
Following the murder of a 'loved-one’ there’s a huge amount of information to deal with.  The arrest and investigation of the killer(s)...the Trial process, the 'media headlines!'  Behind those headlines are the victims' families, experiencing 'layers of trauma' by a process that appears to favour the perpetrator(s).  The issue of subjudice which means that the 'whys' and 'hows' are withheld from the family, necessary to safeguard the prosecution case.  Delays at the hand of the Defendants' right to have second and subsequent 'Post-Mortems'...without regard for the pain this causes, often many months before a precious child and loved-one can be returned for a Funeral Service!  Every painful step along the way, the bereaved family become increasingly aware that they no rights in Law in this process!
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) act for the 'Crown...in the interest of the public at large'...suddenly 'one' has become an invisible member of that same 'Public at large?'  The sense of impotence is demoralising...a parent's natural desire to care for their child, bring them home, prepare them 'whether in life or in death'...the feeling is overwhelming.  Finally, the long awaited Trial date arrives, often a year after the homicide...only to find that 'one' can only observe.  Listening to graphic and terrible details about your loved-one's last moments, who has effectively been rendered a 'non-person' in the eyes of the Law...without being able to show emotion!
Then the unthinkable, the worst of all possibilities at the end of the Trial...Acquittal!  The Acquittal verdict for the bereaved family, a 'double trauma'.  Some say...
"It's as though their loved-one has been murdered twice!"


As explained earlier Acquittals can be 'perverse verdicts' which go against all the evidence presented...Juries do not have to give reasons for how their 'Verdicts' were reached! Furthermore, a 'Not Guilty' verdict can also be the result of technical-type hitches in the legal process.  In addition to this, if a Jury are unable to reach a decision, even after a re-trial, the case is terminated and a verdict of 'Not Guilty' is returned?
Every year there are between 125 - 183 families living with an Acquittal of a person accused of the Murder/Manslaughter of their loved-one.  
Carole Longe and Ann Roberts both know first-hand how an Acquittal adds to the unbearable loss, the sense of injustice as well as the subsequent feeling of isolation at being thrown into a 'legal no man's land'.  Society seems to be saying that the 'child you gave life to, brought into the world safely, nurtured into adulthood, can be ruthlessly denied that precious 'life' by a 'killer'...and 'it doesn't seem to matter!'  This cannot be right?  For me this goes against my understanding of British Jurisprudence, surely every reader will be just as outraged?
Carole's daughter Dr Nina Longe was murdered in 2000...her killer subsequently Acquitted, against all the evidence...
Ann Roberts son Simon was murdered in 2003, the case terminated after a re-trial.  The Jury could not reach a decision and the verdict of 'Not Guilty' was recorded...
Carole and Ann were not offered any appropriate advice, support or counselling...they were left to fight for Justice for Nina and Simon.  Fortunately, these two mothers have found an extraordinary inner strength that has led them to become the founders of 'Justice After Acquittal' or JAA to fight collectively to bring about much needed changes to redress the balance.  After all the Scales of Justice are supposed to represent balance and equity for all!




On Tuesday, 17th January, 2017 in a major step forward the National Standards of Support (NSS) was launched at Portcullis House chaired by Edward Argar MP, Alison Saunders - Director of Public Prosecutions, Commander Stuart Cundy - Metropolitan Police Head of Specialist Crime Investigations. The NSS is a series of meetings with the Crown Prosecution Service and Police, working with the family. This provides an opportunity for the family to learn what might have led to the Acquittal, what next steps can be taken and to obtain information about future reviews.
The NSS have been developed by Justice After Acquittal (JAA) working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service.

LAUNCH OF NATIONAL STANDARDS OF SUPPORT (NSS) Support for Families following an Acquittal in Murder Cases



Below is a summary of recommendation which Carole and Ann put together to help you through the process:

  • The CPS should offer to meet with you within 3 weeks of the Acquittal.  If the CPS has not contacted you within this time, contact your local CPS Victim Liaison Unit for an update.

  • If the Police have not already explained your rights under JAA National Standards of Support, the CPS will do so and will provide you with a copy which includes a Flowchart of JAA the process.  The process sets out a series of meetings, jointly chaired by the CPS and the Police…an opportunity for you to ask any questions or raise any concerns about the Trial and Verdict.

  • Keep in regular contact with your Police Family Liaison Officer.  Ask for regular updates on the investigation. In additional the Police are required to review your case every 2 years (ask to be involved in this review process).

  • You may find it helpful to contact your local Police & Crime Commissioner and provide them with feedback on your experience.  They will be able to provide details of support services in your area.

  • If you have not already, contact your local Member of Parliament to see what support they can provide you.

  • Contact your local and national  newspapers to see what support they can provide to raising/maintaining awareness of your case in the media.

  • If you have concerns about the CPS and/or Police handling of your case, you may want to make a complaint through their complaints procedures.

If you remain unhappy having completed their individual complaints procedures and your concerns relate to the CPS and/or the Police not meeting their obligations under the Victims’ Code, you can additionally raise your concerns with the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman via your Member of Parliament.

We hope your find the foregoing information useful and our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.


Retrials/Legal Guidancewww.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/retrials/

Case Study:  Vikki Thompson was attacked on the 12th August, 1995 and died on the 18th August, 1995.  Mark Weston was subsequently charged and Acquitted of her murder.  14 years later...Weston's Acquittal was quashed and he was successfully convicted in December, 2010: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-11987387


Case Study:  Finally, after 18 years, some Justice for Stephen Lawrence's family.  Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was stabbed to death near a bus stop in Eltham, South London, in April 1993.  Following the Acquittals of Gary Dobson and David Norris being quashed and re-Trials commenced, both men have been successfully convicted of Stephen's Murder on the 3rd January, 2012: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16347953






E. & O.E.