Irish Innocence Project Summary
An Innocence project represents someone who is factually innocent of a crime or claims to be factually innocent, where a miscarriage of justice is claimed. In effect, the project seeks to unearth new evidence to secure whatever remedy is appropriate in the individual case.
The Irish Innocence Projects works largely, but not exclusively, on the basis that a person claiming to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice has to adduce that a new or newly discovered fact shows that there has been a miscarriage within the rubric of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993. The burden of proof on the balance of probabilities lies with the alleged victim of the miscarriage of justice. In essence, the Innocence project assists in the unearthing of this new or newly discovered evidence with a view towards exoneration.
The Irish project was set up in September 2009 at Griffith College Dublin by Dean David Langwallner and is thus comparatively youthful. The Innocence project is a perfect vehicle to enable students to develop a number of core clinical skills in that students work on the closed case files of serving, or former, prisoners who claim factual innocence. These skills include : interviewing skills – witnesses, applicants and serving prisoners, undertaking targeted and focused practical research, gaining exposure to real court documents and ‘ learning by doing’ , i.e. practising constitutional law, criminal law et al.
The overall aim is to achieve three salutary and interlocking ends:
- Above all help free innocent people who are either serving prisoners or who have been released from prison.
- Inculcate in students clinical skills in a way which made learning interesting and personally rewarding
- Develop a human rights consciousness among intending lawyers.
The college was supportive and agreed to provide rooms and conference facilities. There was a significant amount of initial interest and after careful and select publicising of the project and we attracted cases very quickly. It was very quickly discernible borrowing a vernacular expressions and one also used in the law of patent that we were filling along felt want and that there was a pressing need for an Innocence project in Ireland.
At various stages, upwards of 60 people have contacted the project since its inception. As I write there are some 20 active files. There are 12 student caseworkers drawn from Trinity, DCU and Griffith and up to eight supervising lawyers and a supervisory board which is chaired by an Irish Supreme Court judge. The project has several active cases including a constitutional case on preservation of evidence, a case on an application for a pardon and a trans national case. The project is based and housed in Griffith College Dublin.
This year 2013 5 caseworkers from the project will be doing internships in Arizona, Ohio and Idaho at their innocence projects. Dean David Langwallner secured said internships. Sid students come from Trinity College and Griffith College Dublin.
A Fulbright scholar Ann Driscoll from The Brandeis Project is coming over to work with the Irish Innocence Project in Fall 2013. She was awarded a Fulbright to work with the project.