CCRC appoints three new Commissioners

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has appointed three new Commissioners.

Celia Hughes, Angela Flower and Ranjit Sondhi joined the Commission in November and their appointments were formally announced to Parliament on December 4th.

As Commissioners at the independent statutory body set up to investigate suspected and alleged miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland their role will be to decide whether cases should or should not be referred back to the appeal courts.

Angela Flower was for many years a criminal defence solicitor in private practice in Birmingham. She has been at the Commission since its inception in 1997 and has worked there both as a Case Review Manager and as a Legal Adviser. She has special interests in mental health law and is a former Mental Health Act Commissioner and a trustee of the mental health charity MIND. She is a part-time Judge within the Immigration Appeals Chamber and a part-time Judge of the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Ms Flower is the first member of Commission staff to be appointed as a Commissioner.

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.

Ranjit Sondhi is currently a Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission. He is also a member of the Bar Standards Board Equality and Diversity Committee. He has served as a BBC Governor, as Deputy Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and as Chair of the Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust. He has also sat on a number of other governing bodies including the National Gallery and the Tenant Services Authority. Ranjit Sondhi is a CBE. (Mr Sondhi's appointment as to the CCRC is subject to completion of security clearance checks.)

Commission Chair Richard Foster, said:

'We are absolutely delighted with these excellent appointments. The skills that the new Commissioners bring will strengthen both the legal and the non-legal aspects of the Commission and I am certain that together, and individually, they will be a tremendous asset to the Commission. These appointments bring us back up to the number of Commissioners that we ought to have. With workloads for Commissioners and staff having almost doubled in the last year, their arrival is particularly timely and welcome.'

Parliament was informed of the appointments in an announcement on 4 December 2012. View the full announcement.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 633 1806 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

Notes to editors:

  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 now 12 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.  Typically, around 4%, or one in 25, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
  4. 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.