Decisions about whether or not cases can be referred are always taken by one or more of our Commissioners who are chosen for their professional experience and ability to make important decisions in complicated matters. Cases are generally passed to Commissioners on a ‘cab rank’ basis. All our Commissioners decide all types of cases. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Our Commissioners are:

The Chairman – Helen Pitcher OBE

Helen Pitcher became Chairman of the Commission on 1 November 2018.

Helen is Chairman of the multi-billion pound international business of Pladis Global (United Biscuits, Godiva, Ülker Bisküvi), Chairman of leading board effectiveness consultancy Advanced Boardroom Excellence Ltd, and Chairman of KidsOut, a national charity for disadvantaged children. She is a board member of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personal Development) which promotes better work and working lives, and is President of the INSEAD Global Directors Network.

Helen has an MA, LLB (Law), from Queen Mary’s College London. She was, for eight years until 2017, Chairman of the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel and is a former member of the Professional Conduct Committee of the Bar Council. She has also been a panel member of the Employment Appeal Tribunal for more than 17 years and is on the Advisory Board for Leeds University Law Faculty.

In 2015 Helen Pitcher was awarded an OBE for services to business.

David Brown

David Brown currently serves as a Justice of the Peace in the adult criminal court. He is also an international resilience advisor providing advice and guidance to national and public bodies in civil defence and protection. He is an Associate Inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire and Rescue Services, which independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of fire & rescue services.

David spent 32 years in the London Fire Brigade where he was instrumental in modernising the service. He also implemented a structure for ensuring that the emergency services met the demands of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

David has a BSc in Fire Command, and worked in many high profile projects and emergency incidents with London Fire Brigade. In 2016 he was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for hard work and commitment to the Fire Service and to London as a whole.

Cindy Butts

Cindy Butt is a former Deputy Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority where she had responsibility for setting the strategic direction of the Metropolitan Police Service. 

Most recently Cindy served as a Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission where she had responsibility for serious and sensitive investigations into the conduct of police officers.

She is also a Lay Member of the Speakers Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, a Lay Member of the Press Recognition Panel’s Nominations Committee and a panelist for the Judicial Appointments Commission. She also provides training to judges in various international jurisdictions on ethics and good governance.

Ian Comfort

Ian Comfort was appointed as a magistrate in 1984 and is a presiding justice in West London sitting in both adult and youth courts.  He is a qualified barrister and chartered legal executive and has an LLM in legal practice.

Ian chairs the investigating committee for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the fitness to practice committees for the Health and Care Professions Council and is a member of the investigating committee for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He started his career as a teacher and youth worker and has held a number of senior roles in education. He currently chairs Cognus, an education services company and is chair and trustee of the Ebony Steelband, Carnival Village Trust and Notting Hill Carnival. 

Rachel Ellis

Rachel Ellis is currently an Ombudsman with the Financial Ombudsman Service working within the jurisdiction division of the Service. She has worked in a number of areas within the Service and has been involved in training adjudicators, external liaison and making policy decisions. Ms Ellis previously worked as a criminal barrister and was instructed to act on behalf of both the prosecution and defence in a comprehensive range of criminal proceedings. She represented a diverse range of clients including youths and clients with mental health problems and appeared in sensitive cases including sexual offences. During her time in Chambers, Ms Ellis also undertook a secondment with the Regulatory Team at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This involved regularly appearing for the Council in complex and sensitive cases before the Conduct and Competence Committee and the Health Committee.

Sukhi Gill

is a currently Legally Qualified Chair of Police Misconduct Hearings for the Ministry of Defence and British Transport Police as well as the Metropolitan and City of London police forces. She has been employed as a government lawyer for over 20 years where she has worked extensively in criminal law. In that capacity, she was also appointed as one of the first national Legal Registrars to the First Tier Mental Health Tribunal. 

Jill Gramann JP

Mrs Gramann currently serves on the Sentencing Council of England and Wales as the lay judicial member. She has been a Justice of the Peace since 1990 and has held a number of posts within the magistracy including three years as a bench chairman. She was also a Non-Executive Director of Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust until July 2017 with specific portfolio responsibilities for adult mental health and patient and carer experience. Mrs Gramann has previously held posts as a Director and Trustee of disability charities BILD (British Institute of Learning Disability) and SCOPE. By profession, Mrs Gramann was a market research consultant with her own business for 30 years providing strategic guidance to both public and private sector organisations.

Johanna Higgins

Johanna Higgins is a barrister of the Inner Temple, London, who has also been called to the Bar in Northern Ireland and the Bar in Dublin.  In private practice she dealt with a wide range of cases in all levels of the court system.  She worked in-house as a Legal Officer with Legal Aid Northern Ireland and later worked for the Law Centre Northern Ireland as the Community Care Lawyer specialising in Judicial Review cases.

Johanna also worked as a Senior Public Prosecutor in the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland where she gained criminal practice experience. She is now an Independent Adjudicator and Alternative Dispute Resolution Official on several legal adjudication panels for the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London and is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.  Johanna sits as a Member of the Civil Legal Services Appeal Panel in Northern Ireland.  She was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2018.

Celia Hughes

is a very experienced criminal defence solicitor who has worked in leading practices in London and Bristol specialising in complex cases and organised crime.  She has previously served as an independent peer reviewer for the Legal Services Commission. In the last four years she has had an exclusively appellate practice and has supervised her firm’s Appeals Unit.

Linda Lee

Ms Lee is a solicitor specialising in regulatory and disciplinary law at national law firm Radcliffes Le Brasseur. Ms Lee is a Past President of the Law Society of England and Wales (2010-11) and is a Law Society Council Member. She has held various key roles at the Law Society including Chair of the Representation and Legal Affairs and Policy Board and Regulatory Affairs Board and is currently the Chair of the Regulatory Process Committee. She is a member of the Audit Committee and the Access to Justice Committee. She is also Chair of the Solicitors Assistance Scheme which provides advice and assistance to solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings. Ms Lee is a legal chair for the Taxation Disciplinary Board, the Phone-paid Services Authority, the Family Health Services Appeals Unit of the NHS Litigation Authority and the General Medical Council. She is also an independent panel member for HS2. She lectures and writes on legal and regulatory issues and is a director of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting.

Jennifer Portway

Ms Portway is currently an Independent Member and Panel Chair on the Parole Board, a Specialist Member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Tribunal, an Independent Member of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (Fitness to Practise hearings) and a Volunteer Member on Police Misconduct Hearings. Ms Portway is a solicitor (currently non-practising) and has previously held posts with the Crown Prosecution Service including Senior Crown Prosecutor and Senior Policy Adviser (national lead for victims and witnesses).

Christine Smith QC

Christine Smith QC was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1985. She worked in general practice before specialising in criminal law and has substantial experience defending and prosecuting in criminal cases including appeals. She became a QC in 2011.

From November 2012 to January 2017 she acted as Senior Counsel to the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse which examined whether there had been systemic failings by institutions or the State in the residential care of children in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

She was also Senior Counsel for the Department of Finance in the Inquiry into the Renewable Heat Scheme in Northern Ireland and advises the Law Society of Northern Ireland in relation to the Society’s oversight of solicitors’ professional conduct. As a member of the General Council of the Northern Ireland Bar she served on a number of committees including the Professional Conduct Committee.

The Commissioners started work at the Commission in May. Their appointments are subject to security clearance.

Robert Ward CBE QC (Hon)

Mr Ward is a barrister who has had an extensive career as a Government Lawyer. Most recently Mr Ward led the legal branch at the Ministry of Defence during a period of substantial change and expansion. His specialism is national security law and he has participated in its development on a national and international basis. Prior to entering Government Service, Mr Ward was in independent practice and taught Criminal, Constitutional and Public Law at the University of Cambridge. He is co-author of a leading text book on sexual offences law and practice.

Learn more: Our history