Commission refers the 1985 conviction of Martin McCauley to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Martin McCauley to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

Mr McCauley was tried at Belfast Crown Court in 1985, charged with the unlawful possession of three rifles. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted and received a suspended sentence of two years' imprisonment.

Mr McCauley did not appeal against his conviction at the time. In November 2005 he applied to the Commission for a review of his case.

Having considered a range of issues, the Commission has decided to refer Mr McCauley's conviction to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. The decision is based on information obtained by the Commission that was not known by the trial judge and that, in the Commission's view, raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will now quash the conviction. The information is of a sensitive nature. As a result, the Commission has only been able to supply Mr McCauley and his representative with a summary of the reasons for the referral. A full account of those reasons has been provided in a confidential annex to the Court of Appeal and the Public Prosecution Service.

It will be for the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to make any further decisions on disclosure of the information concerned.  

Mr McCauley is represented by Madden and Finucane Solicitors, 88 Castle Street, Belfast. BT1 3JF.

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

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 11 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.