How it works
What will you do with my application?
When an application arrives we begin by checking to see whether or not the person applying has already tried to appeal, whether they have applied to us before in relation to the same conviction and whether it is within our power to deal with their case (see Can I Apply?).
If the person applying has already appealed but lost, and has not applied to us before, we start work by collecting the papers that we usually need to look at the caser. These are things like the files from the court where you were convicted and the papers from your first appeal. The people who do this first stage of work at the CCRC will get things ready so we can have a proper look at the case. They do not review your case. If you speak to anyone at this stage please remember that they are not making decisions about your case.
Once we have the material we need to get started, we will look at your case to see what should happen next. At this stage we are looking to see what sort of investigations we think we need to do to get to the bottom of the issues that you have raised in your application and that we think need to resolved before a decision can be made in your case.
If we think that there are issues in your case that need further investigation, we will need to assign your case to one of our Case Review Managers – these are the CCRC staff responsible for carrying out the investigations, or case reviews. If your case is going to a Case Review Manager for further investigation, we will write and tell you about the next steps.
However we may decide that your case cannot be reviewed. That might happen because we think that your application does not raise any significant new points that might allow us to send your case for an appeal. If we think this is the case with your application, we will write to you to explain why and ask you to tell us about anything which you think might change our minds. We will give at least 28 days for you to get back to us and we will not make a final decision in your case until we have carefully considered what you had to say.
If your case goes to a Case Review Manager for a more detailed review, the decision about whether or not your case can be referred will be taken at the end of the investigation stage.
If the Case Review Manager believes that there is no prospect of the case being referred for appeal, they will ask a Commissioner to look at the case. The Commissioner can either make the decision not to refer, or if they consider it appropriate, they can direct that the case be referred to a decision making committee.
If the Case Review Manager believes that the case should be referred, or thinks that for other reasons that a decision making committee is needed, the decision will be made by a committee of at least three Commissioners.
In either case, if the decision of a single Commissioner, or a committee of three Commissioners, is that a case cannot be referred, we will if appropriate issue a provisional decision not to refer the case. This provisional decision will be explained in a Provisional Statement of Reasons and the applicant will be given a period of time in which to respond. A final decision will not be made until any response has been carefully considered.
In some cases where the Commission’s decision is not to refer, and where no purpose would be served by issuing a provisional decision to the applicant, we will send the applicant a final decision document explaining why it has not been possible to refer their case.
If a committee of Commissioners decides that there are grounds on which the case can be referred a final Statement of Reasons will be issued, explaining our reasons for this, and the case is sent to the Court of Appeal for a new appeal to be heard.
If you already have an appeal pending (i.e. you are waiting for your first appeal to come to court), we cannot review your case and we will write to you to explain this.
If you have not tried appeal in the normal way through the courts we will treat your case differently. This is because the CCRC was created to deal cases where people have used up their normal rights of appeal. We can only consider “no appeal” cases if there are “Exceptional Circumstances” that mean we should look at the case even though there has been no earlier attempt to appeal. Exceptional Circumstances are very rare and in most cases we will have to write back to the “no appeal” applicant to tell them that we cannot consider their case and that they should approach the courts to start an appeal in the normal way. The procedure for cases where the applicant has not already appealed (or applied for leave to appeal) is set out in the Commission’s Formal Memorandum on ‘Exceptional Circumstances’.
If an application is not your first application for a particular offence, we call it a re-application. If all of the points that you make in your reapplication have already been considered, whether in an earlier application to us, or at trial or on appeal, we will write to you to explain why we cannot accept the re-application and that decision will be final. The CCRC can only deal with convictions and sentences from the criminal courts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and from the Military Court and the Service Civilian Court. This means that we cannot deal with immigration law, civil law and ASBOs. Scotland has its own Commission, the SCCRC.
Support if your case is referred
The Royal Courts of Justice Citizens Advice Bureau runs a free and confidential advice and support service for people whose cases are referred to the appeal courts by the Commission.
The small team of workers make first contact with each client in prison prior to release, and continue that contact throughout the appeal process. The service makes provision for a representative to attend the Royal Courts of Justice for each individual’s discharge and to ensure that his/her immediate needs are met on the day
Ongoing advice and assistance is provided for clients to assist with resettlement after release on issues such as income, accommodation, finance, finding a solicitor to deal with compensation claims and accessing appropriate psychological support.
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