Volunteering with the City of London Criminal Appeals Clinic

By Nora Wannagat 

Nora Wannagat is a UCL LLM student that previously completed a BA in Jurisprudence with Law Studies in Europe at the University of Oxford. In this post, she summarises her experience volunteering for a new project at UCL CAJ this year.  

The City of London Criminal Appeals Clinic is a new pro bono project set up to help those convicted of criminal offences bring their cases to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and, eventually, to the Court of Appeal. Several London universities are involved. At UCL, two teams of students each started working on one case in October, under the supervision of a criminal solicitor. Both of these cases have long and complicated histories (being over ten years old), and naturally a lot of material has been accumulated. Essentially, we have been trying to bring this material into a useful form for submission to the CCRC.

For my team, this involved taking document bundles of roughly 5,000 pages in total, making charts describing the documents and their location in each bundle (some of which contained over a hundred witness statements), writing a chronology as well as a dramatis personae, summarising information on certain pieces of evidence and researching relevant legal points.

As to the cases, both are concerned with very serious offences. My team has been working on a case involving several murders and robberies. Certain aspects of the investigation, as well as the conduct of the client’s initial solicitors, presented significant problems. There were issues with some of the most important pieces of evidence, one having gone completely missing from the police station, making it impossible to examine it any further. The client’s first solicitors drew up defence statements without ever consulting with him, and have, apparently in an effort to appear “street smart”, made mistakes that go far beyond merely unprofessional conduct.

Through this project, we have gained rare insights into the workings of the criminal justice system in practice, and we very much hope that our work, the final results of which we are scheduled to submit in January, will be a good basis for the CCRC and the Court of Appeal to review the many troubling aspects of the case.

For more information about pro bono opportunities at UCL, please visit the UCL CAJ website

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