One in nine criminals may have been wrongly convicted – research

A prison corridor

As many as one in nine people convicted of a crime in the Netherlands may have suffered a miscarriage of justice – and the figure could be higher for serious offences, a new book has claimed.

Ton Derksen calculated that the wrongful conviction rate in the criminal courts was between four and 11 per cent, equivalent to around 1,000 people a year. For murder, rape and other offences that attract the heaviest penalties the estimated rate of error is between 7 and 15 per cent.

Derksen, a professor emeritus of philosophy of science, based his figures on interviews with people in the justice system, his own research and studies in other countries. He said police and prison officials reckoned that around 10 per cent of convicts were not guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced.

A study in Norway found that judges are more likely to accept flimsy or incomplete evidence when trying serious offences, increasing the risk of miscarriages of justice in cases such as murder and rape.

Derksen was instrumental in securing the release of Lucia de Berk, a nurse who was wrongly convicted of murdering seven patients largely on the basis of statistical evidence, in 2010 following a six-year campaign to free her.

In the last 10 years 23,000 people have been convicted by the Dutch courts, but the Supreme Court has found a miscarriage justice in just five cases. The chance of having a conviction overturned on such grounds in the Netherlands is low compared to other countries.

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