26 August 2019
Pitcher OBE to The Spectator, submitted on 23/08/2019. It relates to Matthew Scott’s online article of 16/08/2019.
Your report (Coffee House, 16 August 2019) “Kicking criminals is easy, but who will speak up for the accused?”, whilst it raises a number of important issues, also includes errors about the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), from which I write as Chairman. You state that “as recently as 2013 it had the equivalent of 8.6 full-time commissioners, now it has just one.” That is incorrect. As our Annual Reports to Parliament make clear, as of March 2013 we had the equivalent of 7.7 full time Commissioners, and as of March 2019 we had 4.3.
More importantly, we absolutely reject the suggestion that the CCRC “has been reduced to a virtual irrelevance”. You refer to two recent years where the number of referrals to the Court of Appeal were low. However, a year where 13 cases are referred to the Court of Appeal, is a year where 13 potential miscarriages of justice are highlighted for attention. The CCRC is anything but ‘irrelevant’ to those applicants. Your suggestion also overlooks the wider context of our work, which has seen 666 cases referred to the Court of Appeal since we were established. Of the referrals heard so far, 441 appeals have been allowed. We would not consider the identification of more than 400 miscarriages of justice to be ‘irrelevant’. The CCRC’s work has made a profound difference to the lives of those individuals.
Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman, Criminal Cases Review Commission