The Criminal Cases Review Commission has failed

originally by: The Guardian
published: 30th November 2010

When it was set up in 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission was an experiment. It was an idea unique in worldwide criminal justice: an extra-judicial body that could give another chance to cases that had reached the end of the legal road. The time has now come to acknowledge that it was an experiment that failed.

The CCRC began work on 1 April 1997. In gauging its overall success, we need first of all to look at its own statistics, according to which its work has led to the quashing of 304 convictions. Taken at face value, this is impressive; looked at more closely, the figure quickly crumbles.

Firstly, the CCRC refers some cases to the court of appeal on the basis of sentence alone. If the sentence is subsequently varied, then the CCRC triumphantly – but inaccurately – marks this down as a “quashed” case, and a success.

It also counts as successes cases where alternative convictions are substituted – the most common example being manslaughter for murder. This may be little more than a technical adjustment to the conviction and may make no practical difference to the liberty of the prisoner.

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