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Criminal investigation and miscarriages of justice are … joined at the hip. (Savage and Milne, 2007: 610)

Miscarriages of justice injure individuals and society (see Chapter Five); however, they can also have constructive consequences by providing lessons that we can learn from. As Chapter Two noted, England and Wales have, over the last century, seen reforms that have made positive impacts through, for example, altering the practice of criminal justice professionals. These reforms were connected to critical failures that occurred in specific cases. Some were also connected to the results of research conducted into the causes of miscarriages. This research has been invaluable in revealing that many of the lessons taught by miscarriages relate to the processes and procedures involved in criminal investigation (Poyser and Milne, 2015). Furthermore, researchers have advised upon, and aided the implementation of, improvements to those processes and procedures, with the aim of reducing the occurrence of miscarriages (Stelfox, 2007; Williams, 2015).

This chapter will consider the role of criminal investigation in causing miscarriages in England and Wales and how research has contributed to change agendas, which have, in turn, influenced legislative, policy and practice reforms. As the chapter progresses, it will become evident that not only do processes and procedures associated with criminal investigation contribute to miscarriages, but the lessons learnt from miscarriages and from research relating to them have also contributed enormously to the ways in which criminal investigations are conducted. The chapter will begin by very briefly revisiting research that has revealed the causes of miscarriages (see Chapter Three), demonstrating, as it does, that many are linked to criminal investigation.

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Causes, consequences and remedies

Miscarriages of justice occur far more frequently than we realise and have the power to ruin people’s lives. It is crucial for criminal justice practitioners to understand them, given significant developments in recent years in law and police codes of practice.

This text, part of the Key themes in policing textbook series, is written by three highly experienced authors with expertise in the fields of criminal investigation, forensic psychology and law and provides an up-to-date and comprehensive analysis of miscarriages of justice. They highlight difficulties in defining miscarriages of justice, examine their dimensions, forms, scale and impact and explore key cases and their causes. Discussing informal and formal remedies against miscarriages of justice, such as campaigns and the role of the media and the Court of Appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), they highlight criticism of the activities and decision-making of the latter and examine changes to police investigation in this area.

Designed to incorporate ‘evidence-based policing’, each chapter provides questions reflecting on the issues raised in the text and suggestions for further reading.

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