University staff and students launch Innocence Project promoting positive change in the justice system

  • Project aims to 'remedy' injustices around the world
  • Launch event will include a talk from BBC broadcast journalist Nick Wallis on Thursday
  • The talk focuses on the Post Office Horizon scandal

Manchester’s Innocence Project – a collaboration between academics and students aimed at helping victims of justice miscarriages – has organised the talk on the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Claire McGourlay, Professor of Law at the University of Manchester runs the Manchester Innocence project.

Innocence Project Launches at Uni of Manchester Image Rebecca Redican
University of Manchester launches the Manchester Innocence project event

Claire told NQ the types of letters they receive from prisoners: “Most are a similar story ‘I’m in prison, I didn’t do it, can you please help me. I can’t afford for anyone to help me’

“We don’t start off with the presumption they are innocent. We look for evidence first and have to find fresh evidence or it’s not going anywhere.”

Caitlin Donovan, a student volunteer, explained why she wanted to be involved with the scheme. 

“A conviction based on a miscarriage of justice is no conviction at all,” she said.

“It is simply a failure of the justice system, and I must do everything in my power to remedy it.”

The Manchester scheme is a member of the wider Innocence Project organisation.

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at a New York law school. Its initial focus was to exonerate those wrongly convicted through DNA testing.

The project now looks to reform policies, support exonerees and build research-based education.

The Manchester project was established in 2020.

Claire tells NQ that delays caused the official launch: “During the pandemic unfortunately,  because no one was allowed in the building letters were piling up, because we weren’t aloud on enter the premises.

“So that’s been unfortunate for everyone involved, thankfully, we have dealt with those on the back burner now”

To formally launch the Manchester project, the University of Manchester is holding a event on the Post Office scandal.

The scandal saw over 700 sub-postmasters lose their jobs and face fines and prosecutions over a flaw in a computer system.

One speaker at tonight’s event was former sub-postmaster Thomas Hedges, who was vindicated in April 2021 at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Mr Hedges has said: “No one can give me back the last 12 plus years.”