Criminal Cases Review Commission
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Commission publishes its Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11
The Criminal Cases Review Commission has recently published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11. The Annual Report sets out the Commission’s assessment of its performance in 2010/11 and publishes the accounts of the organisation which was set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.
The report says: "The Commission entered the current period of public sector financial austerity having already had its budget cut back significantly in recent years. In fact, allowing for inflation, we have seen a real terms reduction in our funding of almost 30% over the last six years. This financial position makes it all the more remarkable that we have managed in recent years to maintain and even improve our casework performance. In 2010/11, in spite of having fewer casework staff and, particularly this year, fewer Commissioners, we have again improved in some areas and held our own in others. The fact that we have done so is a tribute to the staff and Commissioners who have worked hard to make sure that we continue to progress cases in a timely manner while preserving the high standard of our reviews."
The Commission investigates alleged miscarriages of justice from the criminal courts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The cases with which it deals tend to involve the most serious offences such as rape and other sexual offences, murder, kidnap and robbery.
In 2010/11 the Commission received 933 applications for review and closed 947 cases. Of those 947 cases, 22 were referred to the appeal courts. In 2009/10 the Commission referred 31 of the 892 cases it closed.
The Commission’s 2010/11 Annual Report says: "There appears to be no single reason but a number of factors which have culminated in a lower referral rate in 2010/11."
These factors include a fall in the number of cases involving several applicants convicted together of the same offence and in the number of thematically linked cases. There has also been a notable absence of referrals during 2010/11 to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. As regards the latter, the Commission has been and remains unable to progress a number of Troubles-related cases until the Court delivers its judgments in several cases referred to it by the Commission in previous years.
During 2010/11 the appeal courts dealt with the cases of 34 people whose convictions or sentences were referred by the Commission. Of those, 20 convictions were quashed or sentences varied. In twelve the appeals were dismissed, in one the appeal was abandoned, and in another judgment was reserved (that judgment, in the case of George Davis, was delivered on 24th May 2011 and the conviction was quashed).
The Commission’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11 was laid before both Houses of Parliament on July 14th. Copies can be seen and downloaded free of charge at www.ccrc.gov.uk/
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 233 0906.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Annual Report and Accounts of the Criminal Cases Review Commission is presented to Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in pursuance of paragraph 8(3) of Schedule 1 to the The Criminal Appeal Act 1995 and by the Comptroller and Auditor General in pursuance of paragraph 9(4) of Schedule 1 to that Act. It is also presented to the Northern Ireland Assembly under paragraph 8(4) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 by the Department of Justice.
1. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for 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.
2. There are currently nine Commissioners who bring to the Commission 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.
3. The Commission receives around 1,000 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Our long term referral rate is around 4%, which means around one in 25 of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
4. As specified in the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, the Commission 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".
5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.