Prisoner support group set up by prospective investigative journalists

JOURNALISM students at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, have set up their own, local branch of an international organisation that seeks the release from prison of people who have been wrongfully convicted.

The Innocence Project was set up the USA in 1992 and the students’ decision to set up their own branch has been prompted partly by the investigative journalism opportunities afforded by possible miscarriages of justice.

They are being guided by lecturer and journalist, Eamonn O’Neill, who has been personally involved in a number of high-profile TV and writing projects concerning prisoners who are innocent.

Says O’Neill: “The Innocence Project is open to any students studying journalism and the Strathclyde students – both under-graduate and post-graduate – will actually run it themselves; I will co-ordinate and manage it.

“The students will receive, via me, claims of innocence from prisoners in Scottish jails. These will already have been screened by the Innocence Network UK HQ at Bristol University’s Law School, under Dr Michael Naughton.”

This is the first Innocence Project to be set up in Scotland.

Adds O’Neill: “I fully expect at least some of their research will end up as submissions to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

“The students will not be advocates for claims of innocence, but investigators into those claims. It’s about dealing with documents, Freedom of Information Act requests, interviewing witnesses, tracking down new evidence… the nuts and bolts of any good investigative project. Only by doing, can they really learn.”