The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the reappointment of Helen Pitcher in her role as Chairman at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – the independent body responsible for investigating possible miscarriages of justice.
The reappointment, approved by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, takes Helen into her second term and fourth year at the helm of the CCRC.
During her tenure, a significant number of high-profile cases have led to overturned convictions in the Court of Appeal. Most recently, the 39 Post Office convictions quashed in April and before that, the Shrewsbury 24, Stockwell Six, (ongoing) Oval 4, Michael Devine and Ahmed Mohammed.
“It is my privilege to continue in this role with the CCRC,” said Helen. “It’s been a period of enormous challenge particularly during the pandemic, but also great pride given the hard work of everyone involved that has led to an impressive degree of success involving extremely complex matters.”
Awarded an OBE for her services to business, in 2015, Helen has an MA, LLB (Law), from Queen Mary’s College London. Prior to joining the CCRC Helen was Chair of the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel and is a former member of the Professional Conduct Committee of the Bar Council.
Chief Executive, Karen Kneller warmly welcomed the appointment as the Commission marks its 25th anniversary next year. “Huge congratulations to Helen from all of us here at the CCRC. We are delighted that the term for this role has extended from three years to five after we sought to lengthen it.
“Helen is not only our Chairman but is very much part of the fabric of our organisation, bringing invaluable and unrelenting consistency and experience to the role in the quest to investigate possible miscarriages of justice.”
Helen has also served as a panel member of the Employment Appeal Tribunal for more than 17 years.
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Notes to editors
- The Commission 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 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.
- The Commission 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 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”.
- 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 Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdat