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Our research

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.