Criminal Cases Review Commission

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Martin Partington, when writing about the Criminal cases Review Commission, declared that “One of the most serious challenges facing the criminal justice system is ensuring that miscarriages of justice do not occur”, (Partington, Introduction to the English Legal System, Oxford University Press, 2012/13 (7th ed.) at page 135.

Critically consider the proposition that the Criminal cases Review Commission is routinely failing innocent people wrongly convicted of serious crimes and should, in the interests of justice and as a matter of some urgency, be reformed.

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Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is an independent body that was set up in March 1997 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, under the Criminal Appeal Act (CAA) 1995. This body in the past was an experiment which could challenge a criminal conviction or sentence after the court process has finished and it still exists in the present in the English Legal System. This Commission can refer possible cases of miscarriages of justice to the attention of the Court of Appeal to prevent the possibility from miscarriages of justice that had occurred in cases like the Birmingham Six and the Tottenham Three. However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission does not have main power to carry out investigation and instead they rely on the police for this aim; this is doubtful whether the commission is fully effective (Slapper, G. and Kelly, D. 2012-2013).


As in the mentioned introduction, CCRC is the statutory body charge with investigating alleged and suspected miscarriages of justice and referring them back to the Court of Appeal if “it thought that there is a ‘real possibility’ that the case will not upheld or alternatively” (The Guardian, March 2012). Both the legislation and previous cases have shown the Commission does not apply a test of guilt or innocence, yet the likelihood that the Court of Appeal would doubt the safety of the conviction.

During the time CCRC was set up, there is a large number of which show how hard the CCRC tries to work. According to The Guardian (May, 2009), it was claimed “Since 1997, the CCRC has reviewed more than 11,600 cases, only 385 of which it has referred back to the court of appeal. As of March 2009, 273 convictions had been quashed as a result. In the vast majority of cases, the CCRC forms the view that there is not a real possibility of having a conviction overturned or a sentence reduced”. Even though the CCRC got the relevant number of cases which they had worked, it had been debating by many professors and lawyers because of their weak performance.

Hence, in the writing about the CCRC, Martin Partington (2012-2013) declared “One of the most serious challenges facing the criminal justice system is ensuring that miscarriages of justice do not occur”. Because of the gap of law, miscarriages of justice have been existed for a long time ago. It takes years to put right under the CCRC’s performance to examine possible miscarriages of justice in Britain. There have been a lot in recent years because new forensic techniques such as DNA make it possible to review old cases. However, people are often in prison for decades before they are released. For instance, The Birmingham 6 who are a group of Irish people, were wrongly convicted as terrorists in the 1970s and locked up for a long time and they were eventually released about 10 years ago. ( Naughton, M., 2012, p208).

As the CCRC’s performance over decades, this Commission makes an effort to work as investigating miscarriages of justice. Nevertheless, it takes time to involve cases. It’s probably worth to mention about the Jeremy Bamber case which is a current one where a man who claims he is victim of miscarriage but he can’t get his conviction overturned. It will probably have explanation of the weaknesses of the current system.

“Bamber, 51, was jailed for life in 1986. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years but, in 1994, the sentence was increased to whole life by the then home secretary, Michael Howard” (The Guardian, May, 2012)

Supporting to Criminal Justice in the Legal System, the CCRC is the only final mechanism for challenging a criminal conviction after the court process has finish. However, the CCRC has been criticised during the time it works and it becomes the characterised by procrastination such as taking time to evaluate cases, not referring the cases or even though it does, it could be poor appeals causes by poorly analyse cases. In the report of professor Zander QC, he claimed that if the CCRC fit for purpose what was originally envisaged. He argued that the real possibility test these days is replaced by a test which let the CCRC or convict the applicant back to the court of appeal if they might be innocent.

As the result of the CCRC, even this Commission is a failure of their purpose to investigate miscarriages of justice, it haven’t gone away in the current system. In somehow, the government tried to look at the CCRC’s funding and they cut it back to reduce the wrongly convicted by the Commission. Nevertheless, it’s survived and become a strong believable method in investigation which relies on the police officers. No one can blame for the malfunctioning of the judicial system when the CCRC is one of the solution to deal with criminal cases.

“Probably that’s its main residual function: as a fig leaf” (The Guardian, November, 2012).


As the fact is going on, the CCRC has many advantages which can reform miscarriages of justice. Besides that, there are a large number of disadvantages in the system. The CCRSC is one of the essential aspects in English Legal System which is not perfect as usual. However, the Commission is quite weak in the way they investigate cases for people and it takes long time to work out of issues. Debating about the CCRC, it will never end whether the crime is taking place. Instead of criticising the current body in the system, the government should ban the reasonable solution to reduce the number of wrongly convicted by court or make the clause “being fair” up to the level which it does mean.

Moreover, in my opinion, the CCRC need to look though the way they have deal with a serious issue which makes they become a point of criticism. It probably worth reading about Sir Blackstone noted in his article: “The law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” (Sir Blackstone, W., 1765)



Journal Articles:

Naughton, M. (2012), The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Innocence versus safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system, Criminal Law Quarterly, Vol. 58, pp. 207-244.

Foster, R. and Bassett C. (2008), Single Equality Scheme, Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Gerber, T. (2008), Aidwyc, Association in defence of the wrongly convicted, Vol.9 Sir Blackstone, W., (1765), Commentaries on the Laws of England.


Elliott, C. and Quinn, F. (2007), English Legal System, 8th ed, Pearson Education.

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Criminal Cases Review Commission. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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