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CRIMINAL REVIEW COMMISSION

The English Criminal Review Commission

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"The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is the statutory body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.[1] It was established by Section 8 of the Criminal Appeal Act of 1995 [2] and began work on 31 March 1997. The Commission is the only body in its area of jurisdiction with the power to send a case back to an appeals court if it concludes that there is a real possibility that the court will overturn a conviction or reduce a sentence".

Before the creation of the CCRC, the only resort for a case that had already been to the Court of Appeal (or the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal) was a direct appeal to the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Only these officials had the power to order the court to hear a case again. This power was limited to cases tried on indictment, and only four or five cases were referred each year from around 700 applications. The power was also reactive in that the secretary could only considered the issues raised by applicants or their representatives, and could not investigate further or seek new grounds for appeal. A source of frequent criticism was that the same person responsible for the police could control whether or not a conviction was overturned.

In the 1970s, a series of convictions were later found to be illegitimate: those of the Guildford Four (1974), the Birmingham Six (1975), the Maguire Seven (1976), and Judith Ward (1974). These cases featured a mixture of false confessions, police misconduct, non-disclosure, and unreliable expert forensic testimony. An additional factor affecting the decision-making during the investigation and prosecution of these cases was their high public profile, resulting in pressure to obtain convictions and restore public confidence.

The weaknesses in the criminal justice system exposed by these cases led to the establishment of a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in 1991. Its mandate included considering whether changes were needed in the arrangements for considering and investigating allegations of miscarriages of justice when appeal rights have been exhausted. Evidence was gathered over a two-year period. The Royal Commission published its report in July 1993. It concluded (adopting the view expressed by Sir John May in his inquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich bombings) that the arrangements for referring cases back to the courts were incompatible with the constitutional separation of judicial and executive powers. The recommendations of the Royal Commission led to the Criminal Appeal Act of 1995, which established the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The CCRC started work in April 1997. Between then and 31st August 2017 it has:

  • Referred 634 cases

  • Of the 626 cases where appeals have been heard by the courts; 419 appeals were allowed and 194 dismissed

Simply put.... WE DO NOT HAVE ONE.

The Australian Criminal Review Commission