Criminal Cases Review Commission
CCRC marks 25 years of investigating miscarriages of justice
The CCRC recently (31 March) officially marked 25 years of its work finding and investigating miscarriages of justice in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Free to all those who apply to have their cases reviewed, the CCRC is the only organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which can refer criminal cases back to the appeal courts.
Established in 1997 as a new organisation arising from the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, the CCRC started work at its Birmingham offices on 31 March 1997 reviewing 284 criminal cases referred from the Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office.
In the 25 years since it began, the CCRC has referred 788 criminal cases to the appeal courts. Of those referrals 539 have been successful.
The first CCRC referral to be quashed at the Court of Appeal was the case of Mahmood Mattan. Mr Mattan was hanged in September 1952 for murder, and his conviction was overturned in February 1998.
Fast forward to March 2022 and Hanif Patel is the latest CCRC referral to result in an overturned conviction. Mr Patel was originally convicted of ‘encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed’ in relation to a cyber-attack in 2011 on the Carbon Credit Trading Registry in the Czech Republic.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher OBE recently said:
“The CCRC continues to play a vital and important role in ensuring the criminal justice system operates in a fair and equitable way for everyone.
“Other countries across the world such as Canada and New Zealand have looked to what we do as the model for similar organisations investigating miscarriages of justice.
“Our independence from police, courts, defence, prosecutors and the government is core to what we do. Over the past 25 years our referrals have helped clarify points of law and identified systemic issues in the criminal justice system.
“For example, our team’s work on the ongoing Post Office Horizon cases has shone a light on the difficulties which can arise when a victim – in this instance the Post Office – is also the investigator and the prosecutor.”
Looking ahead, Mrs Pitcher added:
“We will continue to evolve as an organisation to keep improving the service we give our applicants, and make it clear the CCRC is here to help put things right.”
To mark the 25th anniversary, the CCRC is planning several activities with a focus on working with potential applicants and other stakeholders. More details will be shared across the next 12 months at www.ccrc.gov.uk
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 for Editors
- The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is responsible for reviewing potential miscarriages of justice in Scotland. See www.sccrc.gov.uk
- Since 31 March 1997 the CCRC has received 28,557 applications. These include non-eligible applications from people who, for example, do not have a criminal conviction or who are already in the appeal process. Each application is carefully screened to ensure the CCRC is the right organisation to help them.
- Mr Mattan’s conviction was overturned based on inconsistent witness statements, the credibility of key witnesses and non-disclosure of identification evidence.
- Mr Patel’s conviction was overturned on the basis the jury should have been given a suitable direction on the issue of mens rea as to jurisdiction.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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 also be found on Twitter: @ccrcupdate and Instagram: the_ccrc
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