The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has referred a sexual assault conviction from 2008 to the Crown Court, after finding compelling evidence that the person arrested at the scene, was not the same man who was later convicted at court. The convicted man, “Mr H”, was placed on the national Sex Offenders Register as a result of this conviction.
In April 2008, a woman was sexually assaulted by a man in Wakefield town centre. She was able to identify her attacker to nearby police officers, who immediately arrested the man. This man gave Mr H’s name, date of birth and address to the police and was later released on bail. Several months later, Mr H attended a trial at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court and was convicted.
Mr H applied to the CCRC in September 2020, saying that he was not the man who had sexually assaulted the victim. After looking into his case, the CCRC discovered that the fingerprints taken from the man identified and arrested at the scene did not match those of Mr H. The police had discovered this in 2009 and concluded that Mr H was not responsible for the crime. Attempts made to resolve this situation at that time were unsuccessful and Mr H remained convicted of the offence.
The CCRC has decided that, as there is no evidence to link Mr H to the offence and the police now accept that he was not to blame, there is a real possibility that an appeal in the Crown Court will succeed. Due to the unusual nature of this case, the CCRC has also found “exceptional circumstances” which allow it to refer the case, even though Mr H has not tried to appeal in the usual way.
Helen Pitcher, Chairman of the CCRC said: “We knew quite quickly that this was an unusual case as the police accepted that Mr H was not the man responsible. Although there are a number of unanswered questions about how this situation occurred, the important fact is that there is absolutely no evidence that Mr H committed the offence. If we had been alerted to this case sooner, it seems likely that this would have been resolved years ago. This shows how important it is that people across the Criminal Justice System know about the CCRC and the work that we do.”
Mr H was not represented in his application to the CCRC.
This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on 0121 232 0900 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for editors
- The Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently 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 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC 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 CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that a conviction and/or sentence 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.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The CCRC can also be found on Twitter: @ccrcupdate and Instagram: the_ccrc