Criminal Cases Review Commission
Complexities of Post Office Horizon referrals set out as more convictions sent for appeal
The organisation that investigates potential miscarriages of justice has referred two further Post Office convictions for appeal – and published a long-read article explaining why such convictions cannot be referred ‘en masse’.
- The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) investigate potential miscarriages of justice
- The organisation has now referred 68 convictions related to the Post Office Horizon scandal
- Bespoke reviews must take place before any referral and can only happen with consent
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has now referred 68 cases related to Post Office convictions or sentences to the appellate courts where they believe the decision might be overturned.
While that number already makes it the most widespread miscarriage of justice the organisation has ever reviewed, there are still thought to be many more unchallenged potentially unjust convictions.
A long-read article by CCRC Casework Operations Director Amanda Pearce published yesterday details that all cases involving Post Office staff cannot be issued as a batch because each case must be reviewed individually to determine whether the Horizon data was instrumental to the conviction.
Also, a case review can only proceed if the person involved authorises it – which is why the CCRC has pro-actively contacted more than 300 people regarding convictions thought to be reliant on Horizon data in the last 18 months.
Anybody who thinks that their conviction might be affected can contact the CCRC directly on 0121 233 1473 or find out more at www.ccrc.gov.uk/postofficecases/.
You can apply to the CCRC to have a Post Office conviction reviewed or ask for information on how to appeal directly to the Courts where a right of appeal still exists.
The two cases referred yesterday related to applications from:
- Therese Gooding, who pleaded guilty at Wirral Magistrates’ Court in March 2001 to charges of theft and false accounting. She was later sentenced to 200 hours’ community punishment at Liverpool Crown Court. As she had pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court, she was unable to appeal against her conviction without a CCRC referral.
- Ian Davies, who pleaded guilty at Swansea Magistrates’ Court in October 2006 to charges of false accounting and was fined £500. As he had pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court, he was unable to appeal against his conviction without a CCRC referral.
Helen Pitcher OBE, CCRC chairman, yesterday said:
“This is the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history, and we might be able to help many more people challenge a Post Office conviction or clear the name of a loved one who has since died.
“It is sometimes said that we should automatically refer to the appellate courts any conviction said to be due to flaws in Horizon. However, the Court of Appeal has made clear that convictions in Post Office cases will only be overturned where Horizon data was essential to the prosecution and conviction of the individual in question.
“That means that in each case we have to assess the evidence relied on in order to decide whether Horizon data was indeed essential to the case. In some Post Office cases, we have decided after careful review that the conviction had nothing to do with Horizon data.”
Amanda Pearce, CCRC Casework Operations Director, yesterday said:
“While the road to justice may be long and arduous, it is imperative that we balance accuracy, thoroughness and haste when investigating potential miscarriages of justice.
“The law which governs our work requires us to carefully evaluate each individual conviction or sentence which comes before us to determine whether there is a real possibility that new evidence or argument will lead to a successful appeal.
“There is also a vital procedural point that there can be no appeal unless there is someone to pursue it. This presents a significant obstacle in cases where the affected person is unable or unwilling to engage in the appeals process.”
This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on: 0121 232 0900 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
- Therese Gooding was represented in her application to the CCRC by Hudgell Solicitors. Ian Davies was represented in his application to the CCRC by Helen Spector.
- The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
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