Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on ccrc.gov.uk. Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

Page Category: About us

Established by Section 8 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 we began on 31 March 1997.

How the CCRC came into being

Established by Section 8 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 we began on 31 March 1997.

We have the power to send or refer a case back to an appeal court if it considers that there is a real possibility the court will quash the conviction or reduce the sentence in that case. Before our creation the only option for a case which had already been to the Court of Appeal (or Northern Ireland Court of Appeal) was a direct appeal to the Home Secretary, or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Only they had the power to order the court to hear a case again.

This power was limited to cases tried on indictment. Only four to five cases were referred each year out of around 700 applications. This was also reactive because the Home Secretary / Northern Ireland Secretary only considered the issues raised by the applicant or his/her representatives and could not investigate or seek new grounds for appeal.

As you would expect this paved the way for frequent criticism since the same person with responsibility for the police had access to the Court of Appeal giving them complete control over the overturning of a conviction.

In the 1970s there was a series of high-profile cases where the convictions were later recognised as miscarriages of justice: The Guildford Four (1974); The Birmingham Six (1975); The Maguire Seven (1976) and Judith Ward (1974). These cases featured false confessions, police misconduct, non-disclosure and issues about the reliability of expert forensic testimony. An additional factor, which doubtless impacted on the decision-making during both the investigation and prosecution of these cases, was their high public profile and the pressure to obtain convictions and restore public confidence.

The weaknesses in the criminal justice system exposed by these cases led to the establishment of a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in 1991. Its remit included considering changes in the arrangements for viewing and investigating allegations of miscarriages of justice when appeal rights have been exhausted. Evidence was gathered over a two-year period.

The Report of the Royal Commission was published July 1993. The Royal Commission (adopting the view expressed by Sir John May in his Inquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich bombings) took the view that the arrangements for referral of cases back to the courts were incompatible with the constitutional separation of powers as between the courts and the executive. The recommendations of the Royal Commission led to the Criminal Appeal Act of 1995 which established the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

We were set up to look at criminal cases where people believe they have been wrongly convicted or wrongly sentenced. These cases are for those who have already lost their appeal.

The CCRC is based in Birmingham

If we do find something wrong with a conviction or sentence, we can send the case back to the Court of Appeal.

To launch a fresh appeal, we need something important like strong new evidence or an argument that makes the case look different now.

Since this can be very hard to find many cases cannot be referred for appeal.

How we do it

We are completely independent. We do not work for the government, courts, police, or the prosecution. We don’t work for anyone applying for a review of their case. Staying independent helps us investigate alleged miscarriages of justice impartially.  A case can be referred back to the court if significant new evidence or another major new issue affects the safety of the conviction or sentence.

Equality is built into everything we do. We make sure that discrimination does not feature in our services. Our commitment is to create an inclusive culture with equal opportunities for all staff. Ongoing training keeps staff up to date on equality issues.

How we investigate cases

We can investigate a criminal conviction or a sentence from:

  • Magistrates’ Court
  • Crown Court
  • Youth Court
  • Court Martial or the Service Civilian Court

Only the appeal courts can overturn a conviction or reduce a sentence. It’s our job to look at cases and send them back to the appeal courts. We do this if we think there is a good reason to. Any case sent for appeal must be heard by the court. The court cannot add to a sentence just because there is an appeal – even if they turn it down.

We also have special legal powers to investigate cases. These help us to obtain documents from public and private bodies in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These include information held by the police, the prosecution, and the courts. We can analyse evidence, consider new case law, and instruct scientific experts. We can also trace and interview new or old witnesses.

As an independent we decide what documents to obtain and what investigations to conduct.

We can look at old cases. There is no time limit on any application, but very old cases can be more difficult as papers and evidence may no longer exist.

If you are not legally represented – don’t worry – we can still look at your case. You do not have to have a legal representative to apply, but a solicitor may be able to help you with your application.

We cannot look at prevention orders. We can only look at the resultant conviction or sentence.

Similarly, we cannot look into civil matters or matters relating to immigration.

Learn more about the activity of the CCRC and its case work since we started work in April 1997.

CCRC in numbers (April 1997 to July 2021)

  • 27,810 applications received (including all ineligible cases)
  • 26,994 cases completed
  • 762 cases referred to appeal
  • 755 appeals heard by the courts
  • 527 appeals allowed
    215 dismissed
  • 673 cases under review
    142 awaiting consideration

Casework policies

See our casework policies and procedures for information on several important areas relating to casework carried out by the CCRC.

Case library

See our case library to find out about cases referred to court and the outcome.

Casework timelines

All cases

We aim to complete a minimum of 85% of cases within 12 months of receiving the application.

The graph shows the position at the end of June 2021 when 88.15% of cases were applicants in custody (in brown), and 76% of cases were applicants are at liberty (in green), with all cases completed within 12 months in blue.

Cases allocated for review

We aim to make a decision within 30 weeks of a case review beginning (for example, from when a case is allocated to a Case Review Manager).

The graph shows the position as at the end of June 2021, when the average time taken for a review of the case of an applicant in custody was 28.01 weeks. For cases involving applicants at liberty it was almost 43 weeks.

Long-running cases

We count a case as long running if it has been under review for more than 24 months. We pay close attention to such cases to ensure that they are not taking longer than is justifiable.

The graph shows the number and age of cases categorised as long running at the end of June 2021 and breaks them down by cases where the applicants are at liberty (shown in red) and in custody (shown in blue).

Our target is for long running cases (cases under review for 2 years or more) to represent less than 5% of all open applications at the end of the month.

See graph data for long running cases

April 2020 – All Cases 10.30%, Custody Cases 3.98%, Liberty Cases 6.32%

May 2020 – All Cases 11.83%, Custody Cases 4.47%, Liberty Cases 7.36%

June 2020 – All Cases 8.60%, Custody Cases 4.37%, Liberty Cases 4.23%

July 2020 – All Cases 7.39%, Custody Cases 4.22%, Liberty Cases 3.17%

August 2020 – All Cases 7.42%, Custody Cases 4.14%, Liberty Cases 3.28%

September 2020 – All Cases 7.43%, Custody Cases 3.99%, Liberty Cases 3.44%

October 2020 – All Cases 7.42%, Custody Cases 4.06%, Liberty Cases 3.36%

November 2020 – All Cases 7.64%, Custody Cases 4.11%, Liberty Cases 3.52%

December 2020 – All Cases 6.48%, Custody Cases 3.72%, Liberty Cases 2.76%

January 2021 – All Cases 5.85%, Custody Cases 3.40%, Liberty Cases 2.45%

February 2021 – All Cases 6.11%, Custody Cases 3.55%, Liberty Cases 2.56%

The difference between the total number of CCRC referrals heard by the appeal courts and the number of outcomes recorded is accounted for by cases where the appeal proceedings have been heard but the judgement is awaited and a number of cases that were referred by the CCRC but the appeal was abandoned.

More performance indicators

The image shows the Commission’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You can see a full definition of each KPI and details of each KPI in an accessible format in Appendix 2 of the Commission’s current business plan.

We are based in Birmingham. Made up of around 90 staff, around 40 of these are case reviewers.

Meet the CCRC commissioners

Twelve Commissioners are appointed in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice. They work with the senior management team to ensure we run efficiently. 

Decisions about whether or not cases can be referred are always taken by one or more of our Commissioners who are chosen for their professional experience and ability to make important decisions in complicated matters.

Cases are generally passed to Commissioners on a ‘cab rank’ basis. They decide all types of cases and are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Helen Pitcher OBE (Chairman)

Helen Pitcher became Chairman of the CCRC on 1 November 2018.

Helen is an experienced Chairman, board member, board facilitator and coach working across a wide range of businesses and organisations.

She is Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence and coaches many leading chief executives, chairs, and non-executive directors. She was awarded an OBE for services to business in 2015.

Helen is the President of the national children’s charity KidsOut. She sits on the Advisory Board for Leeds University Law Faculty and is a former Chairman of the Queens Counsel Selection Panel.

Helen holds an MA, LLB (Law) and an INSEAD International Director’s Programme Corporate Governance Certificate. She recently graduated from the INSEAD Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption Programme, the INSEAD Strategy for Accelerated Growth Programme, and the INSEAD Diversity Programme.

Helen is a Non-Executive Director at UB UK and at C&C Group Plc where she chairs the Remuneration Committee and is a member of the Environment, Social and Government Committee.  She is President of INSEAD Directors Network Board (IDN) and a director of INSEAD Directors Club Ltd.

She was Chairman of Pladis Advisory Board until April 2019, and a board member and Remuneration Chairman for the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) until June 2019.

David Brown

David Brown currently serves as a Justice of the Peace in the adult criminal court. He is also an international resilience advisor providing advice and guidance to national and public bodies in civil defence and protection.

He is an Associate Inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire and Rescue Services, which independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of fire & rescue services.

David spent 32 years in the London Fire Brigade where he was instrumental in modernising the service. He also implemented a structure for ensuring that the emergency services met the demands of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

David has a BSc in Fire Command, and worked in many high-profile projects and emergency incidents with London Fire Brigade. In 2016 he was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for hard work and commitment to the Fire Service and to London as a whole.

Ian Comfort

Ian Comfort was appointed as a magistrate in 1984 and is a presiding justice in West London sitting in both adult and youth courts.  He is a qualified barrister and chartered legal executive and has an LLM in legal practice.

Ian chairs the investigating committee for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the fitness to practice committees for the Health and Care Professions Council and is a member of the investigating committee for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. 

He started his career as a teacher and youth worker and has held a number of senior roles in education. He currently chairs Cognus, an education services company and is chair and trustee of the Ebony Steelband, Carnival Village Trust and Notting Hill Carnival.

Rachel Ellis

Rachel Ellis is currently an Ombudsman with the Financial Ombudsman Service working within the jurisdiction division of the Service. She has worked in a number of areas within the Service and has been involved in training adjudicators, external liaison and making policy decisions.

Ms Ellis previously worked as a criminal barrister and was instructed to act on behalf of both the prosecution and defence in a comprehensive range of criminal proceedings. She represented a diverse range of clients including youths and clients with mental health problems and appeared in sensitive cases including sexual offences.

During her time in Chambers, Ms Ellis also undertook a secondment with the Regulatory Team at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This involved regularly appearing for the Council in complex and sensitive cases before the Conduct and Competence Committee and the Health Committee.

Jill Gramann JP

Mrs Gramann served on the Sentencing Council of England and Wales as the lay judicial member for three years, with specific responsibility as Council Member for the development of Sentencing Guidelines for Domestic Abuse, and Theft.

She was a Justice of the Peace from 1990 until 2017 and has held a number of posts within the magistracy including three years as a bench chairman and chair of the Judicial Issues Group for West Mercia.

She was also a Non-Executive Director of Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust until July 2017 with specific portfolio responsibilities for adult mental health and patient and carer experience. Mrs Gramann has previously held posts as a Director and Trustee of disability charities BILD (British Institute of Learning Disability) and SCOPE.

By profession, Mrs Gramann was a market research consultant with her own business for 30 years providing strategic guidance to both public and private sector organisations.

Johanna Higgins

Johanna Higgins is a barrister of the Inner Temple, London, who has also been called to the Bar in Northern Ireland and the Bar in Dublin. 

In private practice she dealt with a wide range of cases in all levels of the court system.  She worked in-house as a Legal Officer with Legal Aid Northern Ireland and later worked for the Law Centre Northern Ireland as the Community Care Lawyer specialising in Judicial Review cases.

Johanna also worked as a Senior Public Prosecutor in the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland where she gained criminal practice experience. She is now an Independent Adjudicator and Alternative Dispute Resolution Official on several legal adjudication panels for the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London and is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. 

Johanna sits as a Member of the Civil Legal Services Appeal Panel in Northern Ireland.  She was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2018.

Linda Lee

Ms Lee is a solicitor specialising in regulatory and disciplinary law at national law firm Radcliffes Le Brasseur.

Ms Lee is a Past President of the Law Society of England and Wales (2010-11) and is a Law Society Council Member. She has held various key roles at the Law Society including Chair of the Representation Board, the Legal Affairs and Policy Board the Regulatory Affairs Board and the Regulatory Process Committee.

She is a member of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee. She is also Chair of the Solicitors Assistance Scheme, which provides advice and assistance to solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings.

Ms Lee is a legal chair for the Taxation Disciplinary Board, the Phone-paid Services Authority, the Family Health Services Appeals Unit of the NHS Litigation Authority, and the General Medical Council.

She is also an independent member of the Need to Sell Panel for HS2. She lectures and writes on legal and regulatory issues and is a director of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting.

Robert Ward CBE QC (Hon)

Rob Ward is a barrister who has had an extensive career as a Government lawyer specializing in national security law, including counter-terrorism.

Most recently he led the legal branch at the Ministry of Defence during a period of substantial change and expansion. In recognition of his Government legal work Mr Ward was made an Honorary QC in 2015.

Before entering Government service, Mr Ward was in independent practice at the Bar and taught Criminal, Constitutional and Public Law at the University of Cambridge.

He maintains an active interest in criminal law and procedure and is co-author of the leading textbook on sexual offences law and practice.

Zahra Ahmed

Zahra Ahmed is a practising barrister with specialist experience in regulatory, public law, immigration and crime.

She has a practice in the regulation of health care professionals. She provides legal advice and recommendations on the disposal of cases, in order to assist regulators in discharging the duty to protect the public.

Zahra presents cases before professional disciplinary panels and she has previously worked in-house as a lawyer at the General Pharmaceutical Council and has also served as Junior Counsel to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

Joanne Fazakerley

With us since June 2020, Joanne is a consultant solicitor practising in family and childcare law. She is a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel and represents both parents and children in public and private law matters. She has been involved in cases heard in the High Court and regularly appears as an advocate within the Family Court. Joanne began her career working in criminal law and prison law.

She has represented defendants in the police station, Magistrates Court, Crown Court and during adjudications within the prison across the country. Joanne is a duty accredited solicitor and has acted as a supervising solicitor. Joanne has provided support at Liverpool John Moores University, offering free legal advice on family law related matters.
 
Joanne was formerly a director at a childcare law practice.

Nicola Cockburn

Nicola presently sits as a Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber. She qualified as a Solicitor in 2005 and practised primarily in the not-for-profit sector, specialising in immigration and asylum law.

Nicola worked in organisations including Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly Refugee Legal Centre), and Lambeth Law Centre. She has represented a diverse range of vulnerable clients before the Immigration Tribunals and the higher courts, including unaccompanied children, and survivors of trafficking and torture.

Nicola was previously a volunteer Director of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (2011 to 2013), and she has sat as an Independent Funding and Costs Adjudicator hearing legal aid appeals in public law cases (2014 to 2017).
 
Nicola is now a Freelance Lecturer at BPP University, London, having previously worked at the university as a Lecturer (2015 to 2019). She teaches Constitutional Law and Public Law, and she has worked on programme design projects.

Our non-executive directors

We have three independent Non-Executive Directors (iNeds) on our Board.

They are not our employees and sit on the Board in order to provide independent advice, constructive challenge and scrutiny of its decisions and performance.

The iNeds sit on the Board along with the Chairman, members of the Senior Management Team, and three Commissioners who serve as Non-Executive Directors.

Andre Katz

Andre Katz joined the Commission in February 2018.  Andre is a finance professional with a deep expertise in governance, risk management and internal control. 

As well as being a non-executive director of the Commission, he is Director of Operational Resilience, with Lloyds Bank, overseeing risk management activities across the global organisation. 

He has previously held roles in a number of private and public sector organisations. He is a Chartered Accountant and a Certified Member of the Institute of Risk Management.

Martin Spencer

Martin Spencer joined the Commission in September 2019. He has a background in economics, technology consulting and business transformation.

Martin is currently Senior Vice President at NTT DATA, a global IT services business that delivers some of the world’s largest digital infrastructure and transformation projects.

Previously Martin has held UK and European leadership roles with Capgemini and KMPG Consulting. Martin was also a director at Detica, the international business and technology consulting firm specialising in data analytics and information intelligence.

Mark Oldham

Mark Oldham joined the Commission in September 2020. After qualifying as a barrister, he commenced his legal career in the Law Centre movement, bringing legal services to deprived inner city communities.

He moved to an in-house role with multi-national company Pladis where he is currently Company Secretary and Director of Legal Affairs.

He has extensive corporate experience spanning plc, equity, and private ownership. He was also involved for several years with the Prince’s Trust on the NE London Committee and was also on the Board of Trustees at the creation of the Assessment and Qualification Alliance (‘AQA’) which became the largest examination board in England.

He currently sits on a Dutch Supervisory Board and is a Trustee and Director of a Board of Pension Trustees.

Our senior management team

Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the Chief Executive, Miss Karen Kneller. Karen is supported in this by Mrs Amanda Pearce, Interim Director of Casework Operations, and Mr Peter Ryan, Director of Finance & Corporate Services. Together they make up the Senior Management Team.

Our Board is made up of the Senior Management Team, three Commissioners and two Non-Executive Directors and our Chairman.  Our Chairman and all twelve Commissioners form the Body Corporate as defined in the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.

Karen Kneller (Chief Executive)

Karen Kneller, a barrister, is our Chief Executive and Accounting Officer.

Karen is responsible for safeguarding the public funds allocated to us, and for ensuring propriety and regularity in the handling of those public funds.

She is also responsible for operations and management. Karen is assisted with these duties as Accounting Officer by the Director of Casework Operations and Director of Finance and Corporate Services.

Amanda Pearce

Amanda Pearce, solicitor, is our Casework Operations Director.

Amanda is responsible for the day to day running of casework operations ensuring that the Commission achieves its key casework aims and objectives.

Amanda is also responsible for ensuring the smooth running of casework ops.

Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan is our Finance and Corporate Services Director.

He has overall responsibility for financial management and control. He oversees the provision of corporate services including strategic oversight of human resources, IT, information management and the management of risk within the Commission.

Many myths surround the work that we do. It is important to us that you know how we work to make sure you get the right facts.

Here are the most popular myths about us with the answers that you need.

“It costs money to lodge an appeal with you”

No, it doesn’t. We do not charge anything so applying to us will not cost you any money. Our service is free.

Some people choose to apply themselves, others with legal representation. The costs are absorbed by us unless an applicant wishes to appoint a lawyer of their choice and is also unable to access legal aid.

If you apply to us and your case is referred to the appeal court, the court cannot add to your sentence even if they turn down your appeal.

“You are a Government organisation aren’t you?”

No. We are an independent, public body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.

“But it’s the Government that pay for you”

We are actually funded by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

“Will my sentence be extended if I apply?”

If you apply to us and your case is referred to the appeal court, the court cannot add to your sentence even if they turn down your appeal. 

“Will I hear from you after I have applied?”

Yes. Most of the time we will write to you or your representative.

If you have given us an email address, we will use that instead of the post. 

We always send a letter in the post to acknowledge when an application has arrived. If you have applied to us and have not had a letter from us within ten days, please get in touch again.

We will usually post a letter to tell you about any developments in your case.  Please make sure we have the right address for you. Don’t forget to tell us if your address changes or you move prisons.

There are rules on communicating with the CCRC from prison.  These rules are set out in Prison Service Order 4400. If you have trouble with reading or writing, we will try to find a suitable way of communicating with you.

We will also consider translating material into other languages where necessary.

“I can’t afford a lawyer – can I get Legal Aid?”

A solicitor may be able to get funding to help with your case under the Legal Aid scheme. You can get advice about finding a lawyer by contacting Civil Legal Advice on 0845 345 4345.

“How would you communicate with me about my case?”

Most of the time we will write to you or your representative.

If you have given us an email address, we will use that instead of the post. We always send a letter in the post to acknowledge when an application has arrived. If you have applied to us and have not had a letter from us within ten days, please get in touch again.

We will usually post a letter to tell you about any developments in your case. Please make sure we have the right address for you. Don’t forget to tell us if your address changes or you move prisons.

There are rules on communicating with the CCRC from prison. These rules are set out in Prison Service Order 4400. If you have trouble with reading or writing, we will try to find a suitable way of communicating with you.

We will also consider translating material into other languages where necessary.

“What do you mean by independent exactly?”

We function as a completely independent, arms length body (ALB). This means that we are independent of the police, the courts, the government and any other organisations or political bodies.

“But do you have any real power or authority?”

Our special legal powers give us access into criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 allows us to get hold of any documents and records held by a public body when we review and investigate a case. This includes police evidence, forensics, medical records and military records – even material marked ‘secret’.

“Isn’t there already an appeals process – what is different about you?”

Anyone convicted usually has 28 days to lodge an appeal immediately afterwards. For this reason, most of our cases have already been through the usual appeals process. Only we have the power to refer a case back to the courts for a fresh appeal. When reading an application, we specifically look for new information that makes a difference. This could be new evidence or fresh information. Either way, there must be real possibility that this could prove a wrongful conviction.

In recent years the Commission has sought to stimulate serious independent academic research.  The Commission has allowed controlled access to its casework records to assist projects exploring topics of practical use and interest.

On this page you will find completed research that is based on our casework material.  Where possible we provide links to the work.  You can also find information about ongoing research activity.

This section also provides information for anyone interested in proposing new research using Commission material.

Research calls are published here and communicated more widely as appropriate.

The CCRC Research Committee considers all proposals and calls for new research. 

The CCRC’s Research Committee was established in 2014/15. It is made up of a number of CCRC Commissioners and staff including members of the Senior Management Team.

They are assisted and advised by two independent academic members. These are:

  • Professor Anthea Hucklesby, Head of the School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham; and
  • Professor Barry Goldson, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool.

The Committee’s role is to:

  •  identify areas of potential research beneficial to the Commission and to the wider criminal justice system
  •  issues calls for relevant research from external providers
  •  assess ad hoc and unsolicited research proposals
  •  monitor the progress of ongoing projects

Anyone interested in proposing an academic research project to the Commission should consider the following documents:

They should also make themselves aware of published research.

All researchers will be required to sign an appropriate confidentiality agreement before access to CCRC records can be given.

Research projects

Completed research

Reasons to Doubt: Wrongful Convictions and the Criminal Cases Review Commission

Professor Carolyn Hoyle

This book is the result of a study over several years by Professor Carolyn Hoyle from Oxford University Centre for Criminology.

Professor Hoyle and her team had access to CCRC casework files as well as to staff and Commissioners. Through in-depth analysis of case files and interviews the authors scrutinize the Commission’s operational practices, its working rules, and assumptions, considering how these influence its understanding of the real possibility test. The book was published in February 2019 by Oxford University Press. More details can be found here.

Professor Carolyn Hoyle relied in part on her research at the CCRC for her chapter Compensating Injustice: The Perils of the Innocence Discourse in Young, S.M., Hunter, J., Roberts, P., and Dixon, D (eds), The Integrity of Criminal Process: From Theory into Practice, (Hart 2016). See details of The Integrity of Criminal Process: From Theory into Practice.

The Court of Appeal and the Criminalisation of Refugees

Yewa Holiday, Elspeth Guild and Valsamis Mitsilegas

This independent research project, invited by the CCRC, examines the situation of refugees in England and Wales who are prosecuted to conviction for irregular migration in circumstances which are contrary to the mandatory requirement in international refugee law that refugees not be penalised for irregular entry or presence in a country.

Between 2005 and 2016, the CCRC referred close to 60 such cases for appeal; around one third were referrals to the Court of Appeal.

In 2016, The Court in R v YY and Nori [2016] EWCA Crim 18 (‘Nori’) stated that refugees who had been convicted of offences of irregular migration but who had not appealed their convictions and were now out of time to do so need no longer apply to the CCRC.

Instead refugees in this position could go straight to the Court of Appeal. The Court also suggested that the CCRC ought to change its policy on exceptional circumstances as in the Court’s view, the CCRC appeared to be applying exceptional circumstances as ‘a matter of routine’. The CCRC changed its policy on exceptional circumstances after the Nori case. The research question – Does the approach of the Court of Appeal after R v Nori protect refugees from criminalisation? – investigates whether refugees are appealing direct to the Court and the outcomes; and evaluates the impact of Nori on refugees and on the decision-making of the CCRC and the Court. The CCRC identified the research topic as one that is important to its functioning as a reviewer of miscarriages of justice. The paper, ISBN 978-1-5272-3266-2, was published by the CCRC in November 2018.

See the Commission’s response to the paper.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission Last resort or first appeal? An examination of the CCRC’s discretion to refer cases not previously appealed

Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, Dr Juliet Horne Dr Laurène Soubise

The CCRC Research Committee agreed in November 2016 to a No Appeal project by Warwick University looking at the high number of applications to the CCRC from individuals who have not appealed their convictions or sentences (no appeal cases) before applying. Published November 2018.

Research conducted by an intern on the CCRC’s Kalisher Internship scheme

The brief study was focussed on establishing whether any parallels can be drawn between how the Court of Appeal (CoA) deals with cases that it hears upon referral from the commission (“referral cases”) and those appeals that it deals with in the normal way (“direct appeals”).

A Plea of Convenience: An examination of the guilty plea in England and Wales 

Dr Juliet Horn, 2017, University of Warwick

Examines the extent to which the criminal justice system creates a significant risk that innocent defendants will plead guilty and then fails to offer an adequate remedy.

Wrongful Convictions of Refugee and Asylum Seekers: Responses by the Criminal Cases Review Commission

Dr Mai Sato, Professor Carolyn Hoyle, and Naomi-Ellen Speechley, 2017

This article was published in [2017] Criminal Law Review 106.

Summary: Wrongful Convictions of Refugee and Asylum Seekers: Responses by the Criminal Cases Review Commission [2017] Criminal Law Review 106. Mai Sato, C Hoyle and Naomi-Ellen Speechley,

The Criminal cases review commission reviews possible miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland when applicants have exhausted other avenues of appeal, with a view to referring unsafe convictions back to the appeal court. This article considers the CCRC’s handling of applications from refugees and asylum seekers who claim to have been wrongfully convicted of entering the UK illegally. These cases commonly relate to people who could not obtain travel documents lawfully and were erroneously advised by defence lawyers that they should plead guilty. The article 1st examines the sources of these wrongful convictions by reviewing CCRC referrals to the appeal court. It then reviews the CCRC’s wider engagement with other criminal justice agencies in an effort to prevent further wrongful convictions of refugees and asylum seekers. The failing of the criminal justice agencies to properly protect refugees and asylum seekers reflects a wider anxiety about the negative effects of immigration, and the societal appetite to use punitive measures to control immigration. The article concludes by arguing that the CCRC’s campaign was effective, and demonstrates the importance of interagency communication in preventing miscarriages of justice.

Article 31(1) of the Refugee Convention and the Criminalisation of Refugees in England and Wales

Dr Yewa Holiday

Dr Holiday has written a book based on her Doctoral thesis.

That book, called The Criminalisation of Refugees in England and Wales in the context of Article 31(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, is due for publication in 2018. Dr Holiday has provided this summary of the thesis.

The Criminalisation of Refugees in England and Wales in the Context of Article 31 (1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention

In The Criminalisation of Refugees, Yewa S Holiday explores the compatibility of the UK prosecution of refugees with Article 31(1) of the Refugee Convention which prohibits the penalisation of refugees who have entered or are present illegally in a country. In a world of movement and displacement where refugees are often unable to access or use their own travel documents, they may be subject to criminal prosecution for unlawful entry or presence. Yewa examines the failure of the legal system to fulfil the UK’s obligation under Article 31(1). Using legislative, judicial, historical, and governmental sources as well as case materials from the UK’s miscarriage of justice body, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, she argues that Article 31(1) constitutes a ‘fundamental’ principle of non-penalisation; and that the way to secure protection for refugees from prosecution for offences of unlawful entry and stay is by way of a plea in bar to trial rather than a defence.

Publication by Brill in 2018.

Wrongful Convictions

Dr William Murray Schmidt. Deposited in the University of Cambridge Library in 2015

This research explores, through the analysis of CCRC casework, the causes of wrongful convictions and looks at what factors statistically predict the Commission’s referral of a conviction for appeal and at what factors predict an appellate court quashing a conviction following Commission referral. Dr Schmidt aims to have published in 2017/18 an academic article based on his CCRC research. In the meantime, you can read a summary of Dr Schmidt’s research.

A critical evaluation of the utility of using innocence as a criterion in the post conviction process 

Dr Stephen Heaton of University of East Anglia published 2014/15

An extensive study exploring the basis of the Commission’s decisions to refer conviction cases and the Court of Appeal’s subsequent appeal decisions.

Correction of Miscarriages of Justice in New Zealand and England 

Dr Malcolm Birdling, published 2012

A comparative study of the mechanisms for correcting miscarriages in New Zealand and England after initial appeal rights are exhausted.

Fresh Expert Evidence in CCRC Cases

William E O’Brian Jr. Published 2011

Discusses the possibility of a further role for the Commission in cases involving expert evidence.

The extent and impact of legal representation on applications to the CCRC 

Professor Jaqueline Hodgson and Juliet Horne, Published 2009

Examines the extent to which applicants to the CCRC are legally represented and the impact this representation has on the outcome of the case.

An evaluation of ‘No Appeal’ applications to the CCRC 

Professor Jacqueline S. Hodgson & Dr Laurène Soubise, Criminal Justice Centre, School of Law, University Warwick

Almost 50% of applications to the CCRC consist of ‘No Appeal’ (NA) cases. The Commission cannot refer a conviction to the Court of Appeal if there has been no appeal or leave to appeal has not been sought, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying the reference. Exceptional circumstances are not defined in the Act. The Commission’s own definition of exceptional circumstances, therefore, and its expectations of how these circumstances might be established, perform an important gatekeeping role in managing these applications.

Given that these cases represent such a large portion of CCRC applications, it is important that the CCRC is able to deal with these cases effectively within the resources available, whilst also ensuring that applicants are not screened out of the process prematurely. Our research aims to provide information on the nature of NA cases that come to the CCRC and why there are so many of them. Applicants are encouraged by the CCRC to pursue their appeal, and this evaluation will track whether Court of Appeal processes facilitate this and whether there are other barriers, such as a lack of legal representation.

Having developed a template reflecting the issues outlined in the research questions, we have already collected data on 250 NA cases. We are currently in the process of sampling some non-NA cases, for comparative purposes, before beginning analysis at the end of the summer.


(This information was provided by Warwick University 31 July 2017.)

Ongoing research

The potential impact of legal aid cuts

Prof Richard Vogler, Dr Lucy Welsh, Dr Liz McDonnell and Dr Susann Wiedlitzka

This project is exploring the potential impact of changes to funding for legal aid in criminal cases on applications to the CCRC.

ESRC funding was confirmed in September 2018 following completion of a scoping report and the team from Sussex University began working at the CCRC using casework data at the start of 2019. The in-depth qualitative and quantitative research will explore levels of legal representation, the quality of applications being made to the CCRC and the use of evidence in such applications.

Prof Richard Vogler, Dr Lucy Welsh, Dr Liz McDonnell and Dr Susann Wiedlitzka responded to a CCRC research call in which the Commission sought suitably qualified contractors to explore the effects of Legal Aid changes on applicant representation. The CCRC will report any relevant findings to the appropriate public bodies and agencies as part of its remit to disseminate such information to key stakeholders to improve the criminal justice system and prevent miscarriages of justice.