A Welsh lawyer has said she fears many people experiencing miscarriages of justice will not get their cases reviewed.
Layla Attfield, who has represented clients in some of Wales’ most notorious cases of wrongful imprisonment, believes pressures on the criminal justice system mean many people have been wrongfully imprisoned.
In a recent high profile case, Andrew Malkinson’s conviction for rape was overturned after he had spent 17 years in jail.
Asked about the Malkinson case on ITV Cymru Wales’ Face To Face programme, Ms Attfield said: “It doesn’t surprise me because there are loads of people I’ve met when I’ve visited prisons who perhaps shouldn’t be there.
“They’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m convinced we’ll see more cases overturned.”
By the end of 2022-23, the number of cases under review in England and Wales was almost 20% higher than a year earlier, growing from 605 to 718.
Appeal, a legal charity, has noted that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) granted new appeals in less than 2% of cases considered in 2022-23.
Ms Attfield continued: “I think the system at the moment is very very slow.
“In order to reopen a case, you [have to] have evidence that is not available at the time of trial, that is your only way of getting your foot into the court of appeal.
“I think we’ve gone backwards to be completely honest with you.
“I don’t see us moving forward with the way we are at the moment. I see other lawyers and I see the frustration in them as well. We are all trying to do work with little ammunition.”
In the last three years, 105 unjust convictions or sentences were overturned following referrals by the CCRC.
A spokesperson for the CCRC said: “Our team averages a referral every 11.5 days and applications are up by 30% this year.
“This puts even more strain on our small team of Commissioners and casework staff, who last year received 1,424 new applications.
“We have long raised concerns about our £8 million annual budget and would welcome a comprehensive funding review.
“In the last financial year, more than four in every five cases were completed within 12 months of an application being received.”
In a wide ranging interview with Face To Face presenter Adrian Masters, Ms Attfield also admitted she finds it difficult not to become emotionally detached to cases she is working on.
Born to Yemeni and Egyptian parents, and growing up in Tiger Bay, she said the fight for justice has always been part of her motive, with the sense of injustice in the wrongful hanging of Mahmood Mattan in Cardiff in 1952 [LINK] an early memory.
“I am not a person who can be detached,” she continued.
“I take my work seriously, I take my clients seriously, and if I get to the stage where I am not doing my best, I’ll give up.”
“They [cases] never leave me. I always think about the consequences of if I hadn’t been around if I hadn’t pushed and if I hadn’t done my best, where would that client be?
“I think about the cases all the time.”
You can watch Layla Attfield’s full interview on Face To Face at 10:45pm on Tuesday, September 19 on ITV Cymru Wales.