The CCRC investigates possible miscarriages of justice, usually after receiving an application form from someone who thinks their conviction or sentence is wrong.
We cannot change a conviction or sentence, but we can send a case for another appeal if there is something new and important.
We take our responsibilities to victims of crime and the families of victims of crime very seriously.
Information for victims of crime
This is because most of the cases we look at are not sent for an appeal.
We know that victims and their families have already had stressful experiences. Finding out their case is under review can make them feel they are having to relive it all again or are not believed. We do our best to avoid causing unnecessary distress where we can.
But, if we think a victim or their family may find out about our review from the news or social media or another person, we will do our best to tell them we are looking at a case.
The CCRC wants to make sure that if a victim or their family is told about our review they hear this from us first.
We want to make sure they are told in an appropriate way and given the correct information. We will explain what we do, and what victims can expect.
If the CCRC decides to send a case for an appeal, we will always try our best to tell the victim or their family.
If our investigations uncover something new and important a committee of Commissioners may decide to send a case back for an appeal. This means the appeal will be heard at the Court of Appeal (for convictions in the Crown Court) or the Crown Court (for convictions before Magistrates). It is then up to the Court to decide if the appeal should be allowed, the CCRC has no further involvement.
Decisions about contacting victims are always taken at the beginning of a review and at the end when we decide whether to send a case for an appeal. We think about this during the review as well, in case anything changes.
- By letter delivered by the police – We usually ask the local police force to contact the victim in person and deliver a letter for us. The letter explains what the case is and if it is under review, or if a decision has been made.
- At the beginning and end – If we tell a victim that we have received an application, we will always tell them what the final decision is – unless they say they do not want to hear from us. We will not normally update victims during a review until a final decision has been made. Our reviews can take months – or even years – to reach final decision.
- When a decision is final – We aim to tell victims about a final decision at the same time as the applicant, to make sure that victims and their families hear from us first and do not find out from anyone else. People can reapply to us, and there is no limit on how many times they can reapply, or the amount of time since their conviction.
- What we can tell victims – The Criminal Appeal Act 1995 does not allow us to tell victims and their families why someone has applied to the CCRC. We also cannot give full reasons for a final decision. But if a case is referred for an appeal, we will be able to give a general reason – for example new scientific evidence.
Decisions about contacting victims are kept under constant review so we can do our best to make sure that if victims learn of our review, they hear from us first. We hope this stops misinformation.
We are working with the Victim Contact Scheme to try and ensure when we contract victims we do this in the most appropriate way.
If a victim or their family feels we have not acted in accordance with our policy they can complain, using our complaints procedure. Our Customer Service Manager will take an independent look at the issue raised.
The CCRC is one of the organisations named in the Victims Code. The code outlines 12 overarching rights for victims, explaining what they can expect from every organisation – including the CCRC – in the Criminal Justice System. The new Victims Code, which was updated in 2020 and came into force in April 2021 is available here: Victims’ Code. The CCRC’s obligations are outlined at section 9.15.
If you have been a victim of crime you can get information and support from:
- Victim Support: 0808 1689111 or www.victimsupport.org.uk. Provides free confidential support to anyone in England and Wales who has been impacted by a crime.
- The Victims Information Service: 0808 168 9293 or www.victimsinformationservice.org.uk. This is a national service to which calls from landlines are free. They help victims of crime to understand what to expect from the criminal justice system and help them find out what support services are available in their own area.
- The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales. This post is currently held by Dame Vera Baird. The Victims’ Commissioner promotes the interests of victims and witnesses. For more information see www.victimscommissioner.org.uk
- The Victim Contact Scheme is open to victims of violent or sexual crime, where the offender has been sentenced to 12 months or more. For more information see www.gov.uk/get-support-as-a-victim-of-crime