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Support for under-represented Traveller community

A clear under-representation of applications from the Traveller community to the body that reviews potential miscarriages of justice has raised concerns that unjust convictions might be going unchecked.  

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is working with the Irish Chaplaincy to raise awareness about the services provided by the CCRC and to discuss how engagement with the Traveller community could be improved.  

Members of the Traveller community represent around 3% of the prison population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but only around about 1% of applications received by the CCRC in the last year came from the community.  

Given that in most years around 80% of applications to the CCRC are from people in custody, it is assumed that there should be a reasonably close match between the proportion of the prison population identifying as being from a particular community, and applications from that community.  

The CCRC has also contacted English prisons with the highest proportions of Traveller community inmates to offer additional support and is directing potential applicants to an online Easy Read form which is aimed at removing barriers to application.

Ellena Costello, of the Irish Chaplaincy’s Traveller Equality Project, said: “We welcome the CCRC’s decision to work with the Traveller community.   

“As a community they are marginalised across all socioeconomic factors and often face discrimination.   

“They have some of the lowest educational attainment figures amongst ethnic minorities and therefore we strongly approved of the CCRC Easy Read application forms.

“We will continue to work alongside the CCRC to improve awareness of the criminal cases appeals process within the Traveller community.”  

The Irish Chaplaincy is a social action charity providing services and support to excluded, vulnerable and isolated Irish people in Britain. This includes advocating for Irish Travellers and, providing support and education in the criminal justice system.  

CCRC chairman Helen Pitcher OBE said: “We are delighted that the Irish Chaplaincy is helping the CCRC to engage with a group of people who might not be aware of our services.

“Most of our applicants come from prisons, and it’s alarming that the Traveller community accounts for about one in 30 prisoners but only one in a hundred applicants to the CCRC.

“We are committed to finding and investigating miscarriages of justice, but for a review to begin people need to apply to us.” 

Anyone can apply to the CCRC if they believe they have been wrongly convicted of a criminal offence or wrongly sentenced in a criminal court in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.  

You can ask us to look at your conviction, or your sentence, or both. It is a free service and costs nothing to apply. More information can be found at – Criminal Cases Review Commission (  

Notes to editors 

  1. The CCRC gathers data on the background of people applying for our services to understand how we are reaching people with regards to their age, gender and ethnicity group. This information is gathered anonymously and stored separately before the merits of each case are considered. Our purpose is to keep track of how closely applications to us reflect the demographics of people convicted of crimes and the prison population.  
  2. Since 1997, the CCRC has referred more than 800 cases to the courts, an average of around one referral every 11 days.  
  3. In the last reporting year (1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023), 1,424 people applied for the CCRC to review their case, a rise of 18.9%. In the previous year, 1,198 people applied to the CCRC. 
  4. In the last three reporting years (1 April 2020 to 31 March 2023), there have been 105 convictions or sentences overturned by the courts after being referred by the CCRC. 
  5. The 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.  
  6. There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.  
  7. 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.  
  8. The CCRC 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”.  
  9. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.  
  10. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at