Homicide Act 1957
Two years after the
execution of Ruth Ellis - and largely prompted by her case - Parliament
changed the law so as to allow a defence of diminished responsibility, by
passing the Homicide Act 1957.
Terrorism Act 1974
In 1974, the IRA
embarked on a vicious campaign of bombings, which left many people dead
and injured. In response to the public outrage against the bombers, the
Government introduced the Bill that was to become the Prevention of
Terrorism Act 1974. This legislation, arguably the most draconian ever
enacted in modern Britain, passed through the Commons and the Lords in one
day. The Act gave new powers to the police to arrest on suspicion of
terrorism, and to detain suspects for up to five days without charge.
The `Maguire Seven'
and the `Guildford Four' were the first to be arrested and questioned
under these new powers. Although some of those arrested in these
cases were frequently engaged in other criminal activities, none had any
involvement in the crimes for which they were convicted. Despite their
acquittals, some commentators, including Lord Denning were not convinced
of their complete innocence.
The Criminal Law Act
The Criminal Law
Act 1977 reduced the power of the defence to reject unsuitable jurors.
The Criminal Justice
and Public Order Act 1994
It allows a jury to
draw adverse inferences from the defendant’s refusal to give evidence or
answer questions during interrogation.
Procedure and Investigations Act 1996
Abolished the right
of the defence to seek a general disclosure of evidence from the police.
Police and Criminal
Evidence Act 1984
In 1978 Maxwell
Confait, a male prostitute was murdered. Three educationally sub-normal
boys (all under eighteen) were convicted of his murder. Whilst under
police detention they were given no access to adult or legal guidance,
they were interrogated for long periods of time and in the end, they
confessed. New evidence came to light that proved that the boys were
innocent. The police had fabricated evidence. A Royal Commission
“The Phillip’s Commission” followed and their report was published in
1982, which led to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.