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.
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.