Personal Liberty: When You  Can Lose It

Personal Liberty

Every citizen in England and Wales is entitled to their personal liberty, it is a human right which we all take for granted and believe it is our right.  As law abiding citizens then yes, we are entitled to our liberty.  Even criminals are entitled to their liberty if the courts cannot prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, beyond reasonable doubt is a moral way of making sure that innocent people don’t go to prison for a crime which there is no substantial evidence that they committed.

When can your personal liberty be taken away?

As law abiding citizens we as the general public will hopefully never have to experience the inside of a defendant box in any court room, but there may be times in some peoples lives when they have been mistaken for someone else and have to defend themselves against a charge for which they claim innocence, when a person can prove their innocence these charges are then consigned to not guilty and the person can leave and get on with their lives not having spent any time hopefully behind bars.  Due process (this is an important doctrine that would only see a person imprisoned or punished if there was substantial and sufficient evidence of their guilt.  Due Process is more concerned with every person getting a fair trial rather than proving guilt) and legal certainty (legal certainty should always show that if a person is charged with an offence then the prosecution must show that that person has breached the law in a distinct way in order for that person to be fined or sent to prison) would stop an innocent person from being sent to prison for a crime which they didn’t commit.

But on the other hand, if a person commits a crime they are liable for their action, if any crime is punishable by a fine or imprisonment then the person is liable to spend time in prison, there are different crimes which would all result in a prison sentence including murder, rape, armed robbery, but there are crimes which are never resulted in a prison sentence, these would include some motoring offences. 

HM Prison service in the United Kingdom are now attempting to have some guilty offenders serve their prison term part time..!!  in 2003 the Criminal Justice Act introduced a part time custody for offenders thus allowing them to stay working and also spend time with their families and therefore reducing the negativity involved with people being in full time custody, there is still not enough evidence to suggest whether this part time custody is working.

Some people have been sentenced to prison terms for crimes which they claim innocence, their case would have to be appealed.

Miscarriage of Justice

A miscarriage of justice occurs when an innocent person is found guilty of an offence for which they charged with and received prison time (criminal case) or fines or directed to continue or discontinue an action (civil case).  Overturning a guilty conviction can be difficult as legal certainty and due process in England and Wales should prevent a miscarriage of justice.  But should a person claim they are innocent in the face of a guilty charge then they appeal, an appeal can take years to bring forward and prove innocence.  The introduction of DNA testing in many cases now eliminates many people as suspects before they can be charged with a crime when they are innocent. 

In England and Wales a person until 2005 would have a uphill battle to prove their innocence, they would be in prison and have to sign a parole form stating their guilt and their sorrow at having committed their crime, this person would spend longer in prison should they not sign this parole form therefore in 2005 the law changed whereby a person could be released on parole even if they did not profess their guilt or sorrow at their crime. 

Innocent parties in Miscarriage of Justice 

Amongst the most notorious cases in England’s history of miscarriage of Justice is the Guilford Four, these four men spent 15 years in prison and new forensic testing resulted in the convictions of Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong were “unsafe and unsatisfactory”.  The Birmingham six were also freed after new forensic evidence showed their innocence also, the six,  Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker were sentenced to life sentences for the Birmingham pub bombings in 1975.