For someone still fighting to overturn their conviction after an unsuccessful appeal, the Criminal Cases Review Commission is their last chance.
Established as an independent body to consider suspected miscarriages, it is the last mechanism in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for challenging a criminal conviction or sentence after the court process has finished.
An article in the Law Society Gazette 13/04/2012 challenges whether the CCRC performs this task or whether its indeed “hamstrung by a body of legislation that increasingly assumes the guilt of any defendant, whose staff are inconsistent and whose closeness to the Court of Appeal leads the CCRC to bring only predictable cases before it”.
Having dealt with a large number of applications to the CCRC, I agree with the view of Mr Newby that CCRC caseworkers do vary.
It is extremely disappointing that only a small percentage of cases are ever referred.
Whilst there is a large movement questioning the validity of the CCRC, at this time it is the only system in place.
Applications to the CCRC require skill. It is in my opinion therefore important to seek representation and assistance in the making of the application to ensure that all arguments are advanced.
As a firm we are committed to fighting miscarriages of justice and we have had a number of cases successfully referred.
There is no appeal against a decision of the CCRC. The only means of challenging its decision is to bring a judicial review claim to the high court. Judicial review is different to an appeal and does not examine whether the CCRC's decision was wrong, but whether it was unlawful.
It is therefore important to make the strongest application possible.
By criminal appeals solicitor and Stephensons Partner, Correna Platt