CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher’s letter to The Times re: “Ministers bullied justice watchdog” article
This letter was submitted to The Times on July 30 in relation to an article that appeared the day before. It was not published so we have made it available here.
I take issue with your article “Ministers bullied justice watchdog, lawyers claim” (Times 29 July). The CCRC has never had any problem standing up for itself with the Ministry of Justice or with anyone else for that matter.
We are a public body spending taxpayers’ money and it must be right that the way we spend that money is subject to scrutiny on behalf of the public. To perceive that as bullying and muddle it with the independence of our casework decision making is misguided at best.
As a responsible public body we must be careful not to pre-empt the ongoing judicial review of the Ministry of Justice mentioned in your article and where the claimant essentially says the CCRC is not sufficiently independent to decide his case because of recent Ministry input in relation to the pay and conditions of our Commissioners.
In spite of that, I think we can safely point out that the CCRC independence that really matters is the independence of our casework decisions. That is not a function of the terms and conditions of our contracts of employment, but of the attitude of the organisation as a whole and of the individual Commissioners who make those decisions. Their excellent credentials are there for all to see on the About Us section of the CCRC website. They and we absolutely reject any suggestions that CCRC decisions are driven by anything but the merit of individual cases. To say otherwise is to be wrong.
Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, St Philip’s Place, Birmingham, B3 2PW.