Six new Commissioners appointed to Criminal Cases Review Commission

Six new Commissioners have been appointed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

CCRC Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice. These appointments bring to 13 the number of current CCRC Commissioners.

The new Commissioners are:

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.

Cindy Butts: is a former Deputy Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority where she had responsibility for setting the strategic direction of the Metropolitan Police Service. 

Most recently Cindy served as a Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission where she had responsibility for serious and sensitive investigations into the conduct of police officers.

She is also a Lay Member of the Speakers Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, a Lay Member of the Press Recognition Panel’s Nominations Committee and a panelist for the Judicial Appointments Commission. She also provides training to judges in various international jurisdictions on ethics and good governance.

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. 

Sukhi Gill: is a currently Legally Qualified Chair of Police Misconduct Hearings for the Ministry of Defence and British Transport Police as well as the Metropolitan and City of London police forces. She has been employed as a government lawyer for over 20 years where she has worked extensively in criminal law. In that capacity, she was also appointed as one of the first national Legal Registrars to the First Tier Mental Health Tribunal. 

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.

Christine Smith QC: was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1985. She worked in general practice before specialising in criminal law and has substantial experience defending and prosecuting in criminal cases including appeals. She became a QC in 2011.

From November 2012 to January 2017 she acted as Senior Counsel to the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse which examined whether there had been systemic failings by institutions or the State in the residential care of children in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

She was also Senior Counsel for the Department of Finance in the Inquiry into the Renewable Heat Scheme in Northern Ireland and advises the Law Society of Northern Ireland in relation to the Society’s oversight of solicitors’ professional conduct. As a member of the General Council of the Northern Ireland Bar she served on a number of committees including the Professional Conduct Committee.

The Commissioners started work at the Commission in May. Their appointments are subject to security clearance.

CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher said: “We are delighted with these very strong appointments. The Commissioners began work here some weeks ago and their impressive range of skills and experience is already making a real contribution to the CCRC’s work independently reviewing alleged miscarriages of justice.”

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 233 1473 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Christine Smith QC and Johanna Higgins both meet the requirements of Section 8(6) Criminal Appeal Act 1995, which provides that at least one CCRC Commissioners has particular knowledge of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.
  2. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for 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.
  3. The Commission currently receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year.  Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 31, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
  4. The Commission 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”.
  5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.