Criminal Cases Review Commission
Post Office cases: CCRC sends two posthumous referrals to Crown Court
The CCRC has for the first time referred the convictions of two former Post Office workers who are now deceased to the Crown Court.
Although the CCRC has made posthumous referrals to the Court of Appeal before, this is the first time that the CCRC has referred the Post Office convictions of deceased persons to the Crown Court.
Where a defendant has pleaded guilty in a magistrates’ court they cannot appeal unless the CCRC refers the case to the Crown Court. There is no statute that expressly provides for the Crown Court to be able to hear appeals on behalf of deceased persons.
However, the CCRC considers that there is a real possibility that the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 enables the Crown Court to hear an appeal on behalf of a deceased person if the case is referred by the CCRC. On that basis, the CCRC has referred for appeal the convictions of these two deceased Post Office workers, whose families have no other means of having the convictions overturned.
Peter Huxham pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation in March 2010 at Torquay Magistrates’ Court and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment. He died in 2020 and his son applied to have his case reviewed by the CCRC in October 2021.
Roderick Dundee pleaded guilty to false accounting at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court in August 2005 and given a community punishment order of 240 hours. Mr Dundee applied to the CCRC in November 2020, but died in May 2021. Since his death his daughter has pursued an application on his behalf.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher OBE said: “This was a legally challenging and complex review.
“We know that these two decisions differ from previous posthumous referrals in Post Office Horizon cases in that the convictions of Mr Huxham and Mr Dundee occurred in magistrates’ courts.
“There is no current legislation which expressly allows posthumous appeals from a magistrates’ court to the Crown Court. By contrast, there is legislation providing for posthumous appeals from the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal.
“Given that we have seen successful posthumous appeals from the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal in Post Office cases, the disparity is difficult to justify.
“After careful analysis of the law, we believe there is a reasonable argument that the Crown Court is able to hear an appeals on behalf of a deceased person if the case is referred to it by the CCRC.
“We feel it is important for this issue to be considered by the Crown Court and for the families of the deceased men to have an opportunity to appeal against the convictions of their loved ones.”
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has now referred 70 cases related to Post Office convictions or sentences to the appellate courts.
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.
The CCRC has written to hundreds of former sub-postmasters and counter staff whose convictions might have been affected by the Horizon computer system to let them know how they can challenge their convictions should they wish to do so.
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/.
Many people will be able to appeal directly to the courts, but if you have already been unsuccessful or pleaded guilty in a magistrate’s court, we encourage people to apply for the CCRC to review their case.
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.
Notes to Editors
- 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.
- The CCRC investigates potential miscarriages of justice and is the only organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that can refer cases back to the court for appeal.
- Access to the CCRC service is free and there is no time limit in applying.
- 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. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk. The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate
- Post Office convictions cannot be referred to the appellate courts en masse – Blog: Why all Post Office convictions cannot be referred at once – Criminal Cases Review Commission (ccrc.gov.uk)
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