Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Times
The article “Innocent people stay in jail after case review failures” (Sunday Times, 24 October 2021) unfairly suggested that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) “routinely” misses “chances to investigate properly” and “failed” to uncover “vital evidence”.
Over the last 25 years we have reviewed over 27,000 cases and referred 772 cases for a fresh appeal. We are always looking to improve our performance and it is of note that in 62 of the 90 cases cited in the article, the decision not to refer was made in the first ten years of the CCRC’s existence (between 1997 and 2007). In the last decade, only 18 cases were initially turned down, before later being referred, and 10 of those applications related to the same case (that of the “Shrewsbury 24”). Other than the Shrewsbury 24 case, there have been only three successful appeals in cases where a decision not to refer was made within the last ten years. Of those three cases, one was a sentence only appeal (like several of the other successful appeals referred to in the article). We therefore reject the suggestion made in the article that these alleged failures are “routine”.
It is also overly simplistic to suggest that all of the cases to which the article referred were the result of “failures” by us. Some of these cases were later referred on the basis of new evidence or legal principles which did not exist at the time of earlier review. Others involved initial applications which were withdrawn or otherwise ineligible. It is also important to note that re-applications are often made on a different basis to the earlier application. Such a fresh perspective can prompt further lines of enquiry and potentially give rise to grounds for referral that weren’t identified before.
Our work involves complex matters of judgement. This especially applies when deciding what amounts to a reasonable line of enquiry when investigating a case.
We welcome criticism based on fair and accurate reporting. Presenting a balanced view is really important not just to us but also to potential applicants as we don’t want people put off from applying to us. We don’t wish to be overtly critical but it’s imperative that a rounded view is shared so that people get the complete picture.
We remain committed to identifying and correcting miscarriages of justice and are always willing to look again if something new and significant comes to light.
Helen Pitcher OBE
Chairman, Criminal Cases Review Commission