A bid to counter rough justice

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In February, Home Secretary Michael Howard announced plans for an independent body to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice. At the time, his decision to use police rather than allow the new body to form its own team of investigators drew strong criticism from many quarters, due to concern about officers' impartiality in such cases.

Last month's admission by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon that police confidence in the justice system is now at such a low ebb that there's a real risk of "noble cause corruption" - police fabricating evidence when they are convinced that a suspect is guilty - did little to quell these fears.

The two new Trial and Error investigations to be screened this week (tonight, tomorrow, 9pm C4) can only fuel public unease at the Minister's resolution. Tonight, David Jessel re-examines the 1987 murder of pensioner Ivy Batten, retracing the footsteps of the inquiry and discovering a few unexplored paths of his own. In an interesting twist, the Devon and Cornwall Police, much lauded for their part in overturning the conviction of the Birmingham Six, come under close scrutiny, and are found wanting.

Jessel's investigations are impressively thorough and make compulsive viewing. It's too late for the Guildford Four, Judith Ward, Winston Silcott, Kevin Callan and others, but Trial and Error could still persuade Michael Howard to give justice his best shot.

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