Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

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 Leadership 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 monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Helen Pitcher OBE (Chairman)

Helen is an experienced Chair, Board member, Board facilitator and Coach. She works across the range of FTSE, Professional Service, Private Equity and Family firms, where she has led some of the biggest Board Evaluations. Helen is also a coach to many leading CEOs, Chair and NED’s. She was awarded an OBE for services to Business in 2015.

In addition to her role as Chairman of the CCRC, Helen holds the following high profile Board roles: Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence, Chair of Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and Chair of the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF). A Non-Executive Director at UB UK where Helen is the Chair of their Remuneration Committee and a member of the Nomination Committee. SID at OneHealth Group and Chair of the Remuneration and Nomination Committees. Helen has also been recently appointed to the Balance in Business Limited Board.

Helen was previously Chair of the Queens Counsel Selection Panel until February 2017, Chair pladis Advisory Board (United Biscuits, Godiva, Ülker Bisküvi) until April 2019. A Board member and Remuneration Chair for the CIPD until June 2019. Helen stepped down as President of INSEAD Directors Network Board (IDN) and Chair of INSEAD Directors Club Limited in October 2022. Helen recently stood down as a Non Executive Director at C & C Group Plc where she was the Chair of the Remuneration Committee and a member of the Nomination and ESG Committees until July 2023 and as INSEAD IAA ExCo and VP of Global Clubs.

Helen holds an MA, LLB (Law), IDP-C (INSEAD International Director’s Programme – Advanced Corporate Governance Certificate).  She is the only Consultant in the UK Board Effectiveness arena to hold this INSEAD qualification.  She graduated from the INSEAD Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption and Strategy for Accelerated Growth Programmes and the INSEAD Diversity Programme.  Helen is also an alumnus of the ground-breaking INSEAD Challenge of Leadership Programme.  She both attended and now features on the INSEAD Leading from the Chair programme.

Helen is a Fellow of the CIPD, RSA and a Member of the European Corporate Governance Institute.

David Brown

David Brown spent 32 years in the London Fire Brigade where he was involved in many high-profile projects and emergency incidents. He was instrumental in modernising the service and implemented a structure for ensuring the emergency services met the demands of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
David now also works as an international resilience advisor providing advice and guidance to national and public bodies in civil defence and protection, and is an Associate Inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire and Rescue Services, which independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of fire and rescue services.

David has a BSc in Fire Command, and 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.

David currently serves as a magistrate in the adult criminal court. He is also a Lay Panel Member on the investigating committee for the Nursing and Midwifery Council and an Assistant Commissioner supporting the Boundary Commission for England in conducting a review of Parliamentary constituencies.

Ian Comfort

Ian started his career as a teacher and youth worker and has held a number of senior roles in education. He sits as a part-time Judge and is a legally qualified Chair for a range of professional regulatory tribunals.

Ian 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.  

In his charitable work, Ian is Chair and trustee of the Ebony Steelband and chairs the world-renowned Notting Hill Carnival.

Rachel Ellis

Rachel is currently an Ombudsman Manager with the Financial Ombudsman Service working within the mortgages department. She has worked in several areas within the Service and has been involved in training adjudicators, external liaison and making policy decisions.
Alongside this, she sits as a Chair on Fitness to Practise Committees for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, where she is required to determine the outcome of these regulatory hearings alongside a panel of registrant and lay members.
Rachel also sits as an Independent Panel Member on police misconduct committees for the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police to determine the outcome of misconduct allegations against serving police officers. She is also a Panel Member for the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, which involves the resolution of gambling disputes.
Rachel has a background in criminal law, having previously worked as a criminal barrister acting 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, Rachel 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.

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 was a Senior Public Prosecutor in the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland, where she gained criminal practice experience. She is 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 appointed in 2020 as a Member of the Independent Expert Panel by the House of Commons to hear appeals from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. 
She was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2018 and is currently working on a project for Bloomsbury Cultural History. She was made an Overseas Bencher of Inner Temple in 2021.

Linda Lee

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

Linda 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 and is currently Chair of the Professional Indemnity Insurance Committee and a member of the Policy and Regulatory Affairs and the Regulatory Process Committees. She is a longstanding member of the Access to Justice Committee.

She is also Chair of the Solicitors Assistance Scheme, which provides pro bono advice and assistance to solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings.

Linda is a legal Chair for the Family Health Services Appeals Unit of the NHS Litigation Authority, and the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Services. She also sits as a Deputy District Judge (Civil).

She is 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 KC (Hon)

Robert Ward is a barrister who has had an extensive career as a Government lawyer specializing in national security law, including counter-terrorism.
Robert led the legal branch at the Ministry of Defence during a period of substantial change and expansion. In recognition of his Government legal work he was made an Honorary QC in 2015.

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

Robert maintains an active interest in criminal law and procedure and is co-author of leading textbooks on sexual offences law and practice, and on national security law.

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 and is instructed by regulatory bodies and by defence firms.

Zahra presents cases before tribunals and professional panels and she also appears in the High Court. Her practice includes inquests and public inquiries. She served as Junior Counsel to the Undercover Policing Inquiry.  

Zahra has been appointed to the List of Counsel at the International Criminal Court as is also ranked in the Legal 500 in the category of professional disciplinary and regulatory law.

Joanne Fazakerley

With us since June 2020, Joanne is a 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 has a background in public law. She sists as a Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber. Prior to this, she practiced as a solicitor primarily in the not-for-profit sector, specialising in immigration and asylum law. She has represented a diverse range of vulnerable clients before the Immigration Tribunals and the higher courts, including unaccompanied children and survivors of modern slavery.

Since 2021, Nicola has also sat as a Deputy District Judge (Civil) in the county courts.

Formerly, Nicola lectured in constitutional and public law at BPP University, London. She was also an Independent Funding and Costs Adjudicator, hearing legal aid appeals in public law cases.

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 Leadership 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 Leadership Team

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

Our Board is made up of the Senior Leadership Team, three Commissioners and three 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.

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.