Commission refers the conviction of C to the Court of Appeal

 The Commission has referred the rape conviction of Mr C to the Court of Appeal.

Mr C pleaded not guilty to charges of rape but was convicted at Belfast Crown Court in 2009 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

He was refused leave to appeal and applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in October 2010.

This was a case revolving around the issue of consent. There was no dispute at trial that Mr C and the complainant had had sexual intercourse, but the complainant denied that it had been with her consent.

Having reviewed the case, the Commission has decided to refer the conviction to the Court of Appeal because it believes that several issues raise a real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction. Those issues include: the non-disclosure of a key witness statement, the admissibility at trial of “recent complaint[1]” evidence, and potential inadequacies in the judge’s direction to the jury regarding that recent complaint evidence.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Commission has replaced the applicant’s name with a letter in order to protect the identity of individuals involved in the case. The letter should not be taken as an initial – where the Commission decides to anonymise a case, it does so by choosing the next letter in the alphabet following on from the last anonymised referral. When it hears the case, the Court of Appeal will make its own decision about if/how to anonymise the case.

2. 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.

3. There 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.

4. The Commission receives around 1,000 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Our current rates of referral are around 4%, which means around one in 25 of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.

5. 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”.

6. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.

[1] Recent complaint evidence is evidence from a witness about an account given by a complainant (usually in a rape or other sexual offence case) to that witness before a complaint is made to the police.