15 September 2009

Is Shields Innocent?

The story "Jailed Liverpool fan Michael Shields granted royal pardon" is a bit dated but there is something that is of interest.

The report in the Times says that, "... Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, overturned his previous decision not to exercise the royal prerogative and agreed that Mr Shield was "morally and technically innocent"."

I think that using the word innocent is wrong.

Don't be misled by this note; I know very little of the case and I don't wish any ill will toward Shields. Instead, I'm interested in the use of the word 'innocent' by Straw.

The case that pathed the way for Shields to receive a pardon, Shields, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2008] EWHC 3102, explains that in, "R v Foster (1984) 79 Cr. App. R 61, it was held that the effect of a free pardon was to remove from the subject of the pardon "all pains, penalties and punishments whatsoever that from the said conviction may ensue", but not to eliminate the conviction itself."

The point may be pendantic and to many irrelevant. But Shields has been convicted in a court of law, this conviction has not been overturned; Shields, therefore, is not innocent.

Michael Shields: press statement by the Justice Secretary

Update. The Ministry of Justice has just published a review of the Royal Perogative powers, "Review of executive royal prerogative powers: 15th Oct 2009." This report, at paragraph 56, explains that,

"[a] free pardon does not, however, quash or overturn a conviction. Even where a free pardon was given, the conviction remained."

and, at paragraph 59, explains

"[t]he courts’ powers to quash a conviction provide a more satisfactory means of rectifying miscarriages of justice. Once a conviction is quashed innocence is presumed."

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