University of Bristol Innocence Project

The University of Bristol Law School is the home of the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP), a specialist pro bono law clinic in the area of alleged wrongful convictions. UoBIP was the first innocence project to be established in the UK and was the template for the setting up of over 30 innocence projects in other universities around the country. 

Established in January 2005 by Dr Michael Naughton, an academic expert in miscarriages of justice, the University of Bristol Innocence Project aims to educate students about the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent and the deficiencies of the criminal justice system.

 Student volunteers work on live cases of prisoners maintaining innocence under close academic supervision and with input from specialist criminal appeals lawyers and forensic scientists where appropriate, who also give their time and expertise on a pro bono basis.

“I must say that without a doubt UoBIP helped me secure a training contract" (Lianne Edwards, Trainee Solicitor (2013 intake), Ashfords LLP, Exeter).

Over 70 Bristol students attended the 2012 Innocence Network UK (INUK) conference that was hosted by Norton Rose LLP, London. 

UoBIP provides “access to justice” for clients convicted of serious criminal offences who claim that they are factually innocent, who have exhausted the available legal aid, and, who do not have legal representation.

Paddy Joe Hill (Birmingham Six), Mike O’ Brien (Cardiff Newsagent Three) and Paul Blackburn look on as Joe Oppenheimer (LLB) and Gabe Tan (LLB, MSc) present a paper at a conference at Bristol in 2008 on the limitations of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in assisting applicant claiming factual innocence. 

It is important to note that the University of Bristol Innocence Project is NOT a campaign or victim support organisation and does NOT give legal advice, which will always be given by practicing lawyers where appropriate.

For more details on the establishment of the University of Bristol Innocence Project, see:

In practical terms, student volunteers attend training conferences and they learn to screen cases according to a specified criteria to distinguish cases with claims of factual innocence for which research and investigations can determine whether they are true or not. They undertake desktop investigations, going through witness statements, forensic reports, legal research, etc. They can experience fieldwork investigations, prison visits, interviewing witnesses, conducting crime scene re-constructions. They can experience working with lawyers, forensic scientists and other experts. They learn to write legal letters, briefings, applications/submissions to legal bodies, particularly the police, the Crown Prosecution Service. They establish and maintain good client relationships. They make applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the statutory body that reviews alleged miscarriages of justice and refers them back to the Court of Appeal if it is felt that there is a “real possibility” that the conviction will be overturned.

Lianne Edwards (LLB) and Vaughan Caines (MA in Law) giving a presentation at a national training conference for innocence projects in 2012.

“There is no question that my experience with UoBIP has contributed significantly in assisting me to secure a training contract" (Gabe Tan, Trainee Solicitor (2014 intake), White & Case, LLP, London).

The University of Bristol Innocence Project, therefore, enhances the learning experiences of law students who get an insight into “law in action”, as opposed to a “dry” and more restricted learning experience from the “law in books”. Participation rewards students with a range of educational benefits and transferrable legal skills that can supplement the teaching and learning on the normal law degree curriculum and improve their employability after university including:

Ryan Jendoubi (MA in Law) and Mark Allum (LLM) outside the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission before a meeting about R v Beck. Their application saw the conviction for armed robbery referred back to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.

The University of Bristol Innocence Project has seen successful in assisting clients to have their cases referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and to the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. It has also successfully represented a client in a Parole Board oral hearing, assisting him to progress through the prison system to release.

The following picture shows UoBIP students outside the Supreme Court for the hearing of R (Nunn) v Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary & Anor, a case which UoBIP students had worked on under the supervision of his appeal solicitor at her Bristol office.

Front Row: Joseph Lum (LLB); Sopie Pattison (BSc); Becky Hill (LLB), Naomi McKay (BSc); Jocelyn Lau (MA); Gabe Tan (LLB, MSc, Trainee, White & Case). Back Row: Robert Wheal (Partner, White & Case); Mark Allum (LLM); Dr Michael Naughton

The University of Bristol Innocence Project’s efforts and achievements have been recognised by the following awards:

UoBIP Attorney General’s Student and Law School Pro Bono Award winning team. Front row: Jess Wood (LLB); Madeline Williams (LLB); Steve Chang (LLB); Lindsey Bell (LLB, PhD). Back row: Amanda Bell (LLB); Gabe Tan (LLB, MSc); Dr Michael Naughton. 

Casework Enquiry

If you feel that you have been wrongly convicted or you are a family member or friend of someone who claims that they have been wrongly convicted please write to the following address with a brief outline of the case: 

University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP)

University of Bristol Law School

Wills Memorial Building

Queens Road

Bristol

BS8 1RJ 

 

You will then be sent an introductory letter that sets out the scope of the University of Bristol Innocence Project and a Preliminary Questionnaire to be completed and returned to the UoBIP at the above address. 

UoBIP will assess if your case is eligible for investigation by a member innocence project based on the details provided in your Preliminary Questionnaire 

Contact

If you want to know more about the work of the University of Bristol Innocence Project, please write to: 

Dr Michael Naughton Founder and Director,

University of Bristol Innocence Project

University of Bristol Law School

Wills Memorial Building

Queens Road

Bristol

BS8 1RJ