Hurdles on road to overturning convictions

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The Independent Online
For those whose terrorism convictions are now thrown into doubt there remain many hurdles before those convictions could be quashed, writes Heather Mills.

First, Professor Brian Caddy, the man called upon to investigate the laboratory, will have to decide whether contamination in the centrifuge machine could have spread to samples being tested and whether those samples which resulted in a conviction could have been contaminated.

He will then report those findings back to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard.

If Professor Caddy finds that the scientific evidence is flawed, defence lawyers will be notified and the C3 division of the Home Office, which investigates claims of injustice, will examine files from the Crown Prosecution Service to assess the strength of any other evidence.

If the other evidence is weak, or circumstantial, C3 may recommend to Mr Howard that the case be sent back to the Court of Appeal.

Where there is other compelling evidence, such as the discovery of Semtex, then C3 is likely to recommend that no action be taken. The final decision rests with the Home Secretary. But following a recent Court of Appeal ruling, he must disclose all the evidence and give his reasons in full.

However, following the conclusions of the Royal Commission that politicians should play no part in deciding cases of injustice, the Government is setting up an independent body, the Criminal Cases Review Authority, to replace C3.

Unlike C3, it will have lawyers on board and the powers to order full investigations and refer matters straight to the Court of Appeal.

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