The Annual Report and Accounts 2011/12 of the Criminal Cases Review Commission were laid in Parliament on 11th July.
The Annual Report and Accounts sets out facts and figures in relation to the performance in financial year just gone and publishes the accounts of the organisation which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice.
Commission Chair Richard Foster introduces the Annual Report and Accounts 2011/12 by saying:
'The Commission performed well in 2011/12 despite further reductions in budget and staffing. We retained the strongest possible focus on delivery in this, our sixth successive year of cuts and referred 22 cases to the appeal courts without any material increase in queues or waiting times.'
The CCRC’s Annual Report and Accounts discusses cases that the Commission has referred to the appeal courts during the year and identifies some trends and issues arising from its work.
The highest profile CCRC case reaching the courts during 2011/12 was that of Sam Hallam, convicted of murder in 2005 after a young man was killed during group disorder in Islington, London. The Commission’s review, conducted with the assistance of officers from Thames Valley Police acting under Commission instruction, revealed serious deficiencies in the original police investigation and led to the quashing of Mr Hallam’s conviction in May 2012.
Issues identified in the 2011/12 report include those raised by a number of recent cases involving people who entered the UK as asylum seekers or refugees, but who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for offences linked to their entry to the UK. The circumstances of these cases were such that the Commission believes there is likely to be a significant number of other people who have been wrongly convicted in a similar manner and will be trying to identify those cases where possible.
The casework sections of the report also drawer attention to a lesser known function of the Commission by which it can be called upon by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, under section 15 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, to investigate and report on matters arising from first appeals. Such cases increasingly involve allegations of jurors behaving inappropriately. The report says:
'In recent years we have seen a significant increase in the number of section 15 investigations that we have been asked to carry. In 2011/12, we were asked by the Court to carry out investigations into eight cases involving 17 appellants. Last year we carried out 7 section 15 investigations involving 13 appellants and in earlier years the number was much lower.
'The issues involved in section 15 investigations are usually complex, often sensitive and the cases always need to be expedited. Section 15 investigations are significant pieces of work that inevitably use resources that we would otherwise deploy in reviewing applications; they are an extremely important part of our work.'
The Commission’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2011/12 was laid before both Houses of Parliament on July 11th. Copies can be seen and downloaded free of charge by going to ccrc.gov.uk. Printed copies can be ordered from The Stationary Office for £11.75. The document is HC 390 and the ISBN number is 978-0-10-297971-8.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 233 0906.
Notes to editors:
The Criminal Cases Review 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 2011/12 the Commission received 1,040 applications, compared with 933 last year. A total of 878 cases were completed and closed, compared with 947 in 2010/11. The Commission referred 22 cases to the appeal courts – the same number as in 2010/11.
The Commission’s Annual Report and Accounts are 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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'.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.