No Defence: Miscarriages of Justice, Lawyers and Poor Representation

Ineptitude on behalf of legal representatives is not considered cause for appeal. Tom Wainwright, in his contribution to the new collection of essays No defence: miscarriages of justice and lawyers, voices concern over the continuation of the Court of Appeals in their stance that incompetent representation ‘cannot in itself form a ground of appeal or a reason why a conviction should be found unsafe.’ Failing to recognise that there are those who are not capable of carrying out the task of representation properly weakens the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

Wainwright articulates the cost of such injustices. Appeals that are filed citing poor representation require a large amount of evidence. These failures are hard to prove and appeals on the grounds of incompetence are discouraged unless there is a certainty of success. A larger importance must be placed on the art of advocacy to recognise the effect it can have on the outcome of a case, “it is not correct to say that incompetent representation cannot in itself form a ground of appeal…for whenever a person is convicted without having enjoyed the benefit of due process, there is a miscarriage of justice regardless of his guilt or innocence.”

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