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Our team

We are based in Birmingham. Made up of around 90 staff, around 40 of these are case reviewers.

Meet the CCRC commissioners

Twelve Commissioners are appointed in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice. They work with the senior management team to ensure we run efficiently. 

Decisions about whether or not cases can be referred are always taken by one or more of our Commissioners who are chosen for their professional experience and ability to make important decisions in complicated matters.

Cases are generally passed to Commissioners on a ‘cab rank’ basis. They decide all types of cases and are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Helen Pitcher OBE (Chairman)

Helen Pitcher became Chairman of the CCRC on 1 November 2018.

Helen is an experienced Chairman, board member, board facilitator and coach working across a wide range of businesses and organisations.

She is Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence and coaches many leading chief executives, chairs, and non-executive directors. She was awarded an OBE for services to business in 2015.

Helen is the President of the national children’s charity KidsOut. She sits on the Advisory Board for Leeds University Law Faculty and is a former Chairman of the Queens Counsel Selection Panel.

Helen holds an MA, LLB (Law) and an INSEAD International Director’s Programme Corporate Governance Certificate. She recently graduated from the INSEAD Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption Programme, the INSEAD Strategy for Accelerated Growth Programme, and the INSEAD Diversity Programme.

Helen is a Non-Executive Director at UB UK and at C&C Group Plc where she chairs the Remuneration Committee and is a member of the Environment, Social and Government Committee.  She is President of INSEAD Directors Network Board (IDN) and a director of INSEAD Directors Club Ltd.

She was Chairman of Pladis Advisory Board until April 2019, and a board member and Remuneration Chairman for the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) until June 2019.

David Brown

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.

Ian Comfort

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.

Rachel Ellis

Rachel Ellis is currently an Ombudsman with the Financial Ombudsman Service working within the jurisdiction division of the Service. She has worked in a number of areas within the Service and has been involved in training adjudicators, external liaison and making policy decisions.

Ms Ellis previously worked as a criminal barrister and was instructed to act on behalf of both the prosecution and defence in a comprehensive range of criminal proceedings. She represented a diverse range of clients including youths and clients with mental health problems and appeared in sensitive cases including sexual offences.

During her time in Chambers, Ms Ellis also undertook a secondment with the Regulatory Team at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This involved regularly appearing for the Council in complex and sensitive cases before the Conduct and Competence Committee and the Health Committee.

Jill Gramann JP

Mrs Gramann served on the Sentencing Council of England and Wales as the lay judicial member for three years, with specific responsibility as Council Member for the development of Sentencing Guidelines for Domestic Abuse, and Theft.

She was a Justice of the Peace from 1990 until 2017 and has held a number of posts within the magistracy including three years as a bench chairman and chair of the Judicial Issues Group for West Mercia.

She was also a Non-Executive Director of Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust until July 2017 with specific portfolio responsibilities for adult mental health and patient and carer experience. Mrs Gramann has previously held posts as a Director and Trustee of disability charities BILD (British Institute of Learning Disability) and SCOPE.

By profession, Mrs Gramann was a market research consultant with her own business for 30 years providing strategic guidance to both public and private sector organisations.

Johanna Higgins

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.

Linda Lee

Ms Lee is a solicitor specialising in regulatory and disciplinary law at national law firm Radcliffes Le Brasseur.

Ms Lee is a Past President of the Law Society of England and Wales (2010-11) and is a Law Society Council Member. She has held various key roles at the Law Society including Chair of the Representation Board, the Legal Affairs and Policy Board the Regulatory Affairs Board and the Regulatory Process Committee.

She is a member of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee. She is also Chair of the Solicitors Assistance Scheme, which provides advice and assistance to solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings.

Ms Lee is a legal chair for the Taxation Disciplinary Board, the Phone-paid Services Authority, the Family Health Services Appeals Unit of the NHS Litigation Authority, and the General Medical Council.

She is also an independent member of the Need to Sell Panel for HS2. She lectures and writes on legal and regulatory issues and is a director of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting.

Robert Ward CBE QC (Hon)

Rob Ward is a barrister who has had an extensive career as a Government lawyer specializing in national security law, including counter-terrorism.

Most recently he led the legal branch at the Ministry of Defence during a period of substantial change and expansion. In recognition of his Government legal work Mr Ward was made an Honorary QC in 2015.

Before entering Government service, Mr Ward was in independent practice at the Bar and taught Criminal, Constitutional and Public Law at the University of Cambridge.

He maintains an active interest in criminal law and procedure and is co-author of the leading textbook on sexual offences law and practice.

Zahra Ahmed

Zahra Ahmed is a practising barrister with specialist experience in regulatory, public law, immigration and crime.

She has a practice in the regulation of health care professionals. She provides legal advice and recommendations on the disposal of cases, in order to assist regulators in discharging the duty to protect the public.

Zahra presents cases before professional disciplinary panels and she has previously worked in-house as a lawyer at the General Pharmaceutical Council and has also served as Junior Counsel to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

Joanne Fazakerley

With us since June 2020, Joanne is a consultant solicitor practising in family and childcare law. She is a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel and represents both parents and children in public and private law matters. She has been involved in cases heard in the High Court and regularly appears as an advocate within the Family Court. Joanne began her career working in criminal law and prison law.

She has represented defendants in the police station, Magistrates Court, Crown Court and during adjudications within the prison across the country. Joanne is a duty accredited solicitor and has acted as a supervising solicitor. Joanne has provided support at Liverpool John Moores University, offering free legal advice on family law related matters.
Joanne was formerly a director at a childcare law practice.

Nicola Cockburn

Nicola presently sits as a Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber. She qualified as a Solicitor in 2005 and practised primarily in the not-for-profit sector, specialising in immigration and asylum law.

Nicola worked in organisations including Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly Refugee Legal Centre), and Lambeth Law Centre. She has represented a diverse range of vulnerable clients before the Immigration Tribunals and the higher courts, including unaccompanied children, and survivors of trafficking and torture.

Nicola was previously a volunteer Director of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (2011 to 2013), and she has sat as an Independent Funding and Costs Adjudicator hearing legal aid appeals in public law cases (2014 to 2017).
Nicola is now a Freelance Lecturer at BPP University, London, having previously worked at the university as a Lecturer (2015 to 2019). She teaches Constitutional Law and Public Law, and she has worked on programme design projects.

Our non-executive directors

We have three independent Non-Executive Directors (iNeds) on our Board.

They are not our employees and sit on the Board in order to provide independent advice, constructive challenge and scrutiny of its decisions and performance.

The iNeds sit on the Board along with the Chairman, members of the Senior Management Team, and three Commissioners who serve as Non-Executive Directors.

Andre Katz

Andre Katz joined the Commission in February 2018.  Andre is a finance professional with a deep expertise in governance, risk management and internal control. 

As well as being a non-executive director of the Commission, he is Director of Operational Resilience, with Lloyds Bank, overseeing risk management activities across the global organisation. 

He has previously held roles in a number of private and public sector organisations. He is a Chartered Accountant and a Certified Member of the Institute of Risk Management.

Martin Spencer

Martin Spencer joined the Commission in September 2019. He has a background in economics, technology consulting and business transformation.

Martin is currently Senior Vice President at NTT DATA, a global IT services business that delivers some of the world’s largest digital infrastructure and transformation projects.

Previously Martin has held UK and European leadership roles with Capgemini and KMPG Consulting. Martin was also a director at Detica, the international business and technology consulting firm specialising in data analytics and information intelligence.

Mark Oldham

Mark Oldham joined the Commission in September 2020. After qualifying as a barrister, he commenced his legal career in the Law Centre movement, bringing legal services to deprived inner city communities.

He moved to an in-house role with multi-national company Pladis where he is currently Company Secretary and Director of Legal Affairs.

He has extensive corporate experience spanning plc, equity, and private ownership. He was also involved for several years with the Prince’s Trust on the NE London Committee and was also on the Board of Trustees at the creation of the Assessment and Qualification Alliance (‘AQA’) which became the largest examination board in England.

He currently sits on a Dutch Supervisory Board and is a Trustee and Director of a Board of Pension Trustees.

Our senior management team

Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the Chief Executive, Miss Karen Kneller. Karen is supported in this by Mrs Amanda Pearce, Interim Director of Casework Operations, and Mr Peter Ryan, Director of Finance & Corporate Services. Together they make up the Senior Management Team.

Our Board is made up of the Senior Management Team, three Commissioners and two Non-Executive Directors and our Chairman.  Our Chairman and all twelve Commissioners form the Body Corporate as defined in the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.

Karen Kneller (Chief Executive)

Karen Kneller, a barrister, is our Chief Executive and Accounting Officer.

Karen is responsible for safeguarding the public funds allocated to us, and for ensuring propriety and regularity in the handling of those public funds.

She is also responsible for operations and management. Karen is assisted with these duties as Accounting Officer by the Director of Casework Operations and Director of Finance and Corporate Services.

Amanda Pearce

Amanda Pearce, solicitor, is our Casework Operations Director.

Amanda is responsible for the day to day running of casework operations ensuring that the Commission achieves its key casework aims and objectives.

Amanda is also responsible for ensuring the smooth running of casework ops.

Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan is our Finance and Corporate Services Director.

He has overall responsibility for financial management and control. He oversees the provision of corporate services including strategic oversight of human resources, IT, information management and the management of risk within the Commission.