Criminal Cases Review Commission
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New legal arguments form basis of two CCRC referrals of prison sentences

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) has referred the prison sentences handed down in two separate and unrelated cases to the Court of Appeal. 

In both cases, sentencing judges concluded that the offences fell within “category 1” (the highest category) of the relevant sentencing guidelines, as the victims had suffered “greater harm” and there was “higher culpability” on the part of the offender. 

Richard Grant appeared at Exeter Crown Court in April 2017 and was sentenced to 12 and a half years’ imprisonment for wounding with intent. Mr Grant tried to appeal against his sentence, but this was refused in 2018. He applied to the CCRC in January 2021. 

John Butterworth appeared at Teeside Crown Court in September 2019 and received an extended sentence of 14 years and 11 weeks’ (including a 5-year extended licence period) for causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Mr Butterworth was refused permission to appeal his sentence in October 2020 and applied to the CCRC in December 2020. 

Having carefully considered these cases, the CCRC has decided that there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would reduce these sentences on the basis that they did not involve “greater harm” and were therefore “category 2” cases. This referral is based on a new legal argument which takes account of subsequent revisions to the sentencing guidelines and decisions of the Court of Appeal on this subject. 

Helen Pitcher, Chairman of the CCRC said:  

“The CCRC is not seeking to downplay or minimise the harm suffered by the victims in these cases, but we believe that there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will now reduce the sentences imposed. In our view, it is arguable that Mr Grant and Mr Butterworth’s offending, whilst serious, fell short of the high threshold required for a case to be within the most serious category of the sentencing guidelines.” 

Mr Grant and Mr Butterworth were both unrepresented in their applications to the CCRC. 

Notes for editors  

  1. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (“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.  
  1. There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.  
  1. The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (of convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.  
  1. The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that a conviction and/or sentence 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”.  
  1. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.  
  1. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The CCRC can also be found on Twitter: @ccrcupdate and Instagram: the_ccrc 
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