Memory on Trial - File on 4 (BBC Radio 4)
Mark Barlow of GCN featured in a File on 4 programme broadcast on Radio 4 this evening looking at historic abuse cases, the issues concerning evidence consisting of long-held memories and whether this is leading to miscarriages of justice.
The "Memory on Trial" proramme featured contributions from others involved in and affected by historic abuse cases including Frank Joynson (whose conviction for historic abuse allegations dating back to 1969 was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2008), Mark Newby (solicitor at QualitySolicitors Jordans with an expertise in historic abuse appeals), Claire Curtis-Thomas MP (former Home Affairs Select Committee member) and Professor Martin Conway (expert in young memories).
In the programme, Mark Barlow said it is critical that memory experts are used more if those accused of abuse are to get a fair trial:
"There is a new genre of miscarriage of justice cases in this country - and they are historic allegations - and they destroy lives. We are now in a situation where the Court, at its peril, is ignoring the issue about the reliability of memories and the situation being that the Court will convict in circumstances where it would be unsafe to do so."
"The reality is that when you are looking at a historical abuse case you really do need to work extremely hard to try and get some evidence to put before the jury to actually support what your client - what the defendant - is saying, and trying to reconstruct events that occurred 20, 30, 40 years ago is extremely difficult. The difficulty at the moment is that the authorities that have decided on the point about expert evidence, all say that it is only in the most exceptional circumstances that such experts will be allowed into the criminal courts and only where there may be issues about mental health, issues concerning the complainants, so it would not be a routine - and that in my own personal view has got the potential of creating injustice and unfairness and ultimately misleading the jury."
The programme was broadcast on 29/3/11 at 8.00pm - the programme can also be heard via the iPlayer "Listen Again" service online by clicking on the following link:
> Mark Barlow is recognised as one of the leading junior counsel in complex historic allegations of sexual abuse, together with extensive experience of miscarriage cases in both England and Northern Ireland. He was recently acknowledged in the Preface to the latest edition of Rook & Ward on Sexual Offences (4th ed. published December 2010) for his contribution to a new specialist chapter on Historic Cases more.
> 29/3/11 - Memory fears in historic abuse cases (BBC News article) : "Historic abuse trials often rely on evidence from memory alone. But how reliable is memory? Some in the legal world now fear such cases could be creating a "whole new genre" of miscarriages of justice."