Established in September 2004 by Dr Michael Naughton from the School of Law at the University of Bristol, The Innocence Network UK (INUK) is dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions, improving the criminal justice system and preventing future miscarriages of justice. The first project working with a prisoner was started in January 2005.
INUK has three core functions: casework investigations, research into key aspects of wrongful conviction, and informing public debate about wrongful convictions and imprisonment.
INUK now acts as an umbrella organisation for Innocence Projects in 26 UK universities, with around 500 staff and students working collectively on approximately 80 cases. The protocols to which all the Innocence Projects work have been devised at the University of Bristol in collaboration with Network colleagues.
There is a stringent assessment process, and from its first 800 applications, INUK only deemed around 150 cases to be eligible for investigation by a member Innocence Project.
In each project, undergraduate and postgraduate law students work under academic supervision and guidance, where appropriate, from pro bono criminal lawyers, forensic scientists, and others. Projects teach students about the deficiencies of the criminal justice system and demonstrate how wrongful convictions can occur.
Seven undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Bristol Innocence Project received a ‘Highly Commended’ award in the category ‘Best Contribution by a Team of Students’ in the Attorney General’s Student and Law School Pro Bono Awards 2008.
Members of the Bristol Innocence Project also worked with Channel 4 to produce a ‘Rough Justice’ documentary, aired on 12 April 2007, to help explain the issue to the wider public.
The first UK case involving INUK has recently been referred to the Court of Appeal – a major achievement.