Making an Application to the CCRC
A guide on the Criminal Cases Review Commission , How it operates and on what to do to make an application
Who are the CCRC?
The CCRC are the Criminal Cases Review Commission. They are an independent Body who are charged with investigating miscarriages of justice. They were set up in the wake of 1990’s scandals such as the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4. The Runciman Committee subsequently recommended their creation. They have been operating since 1996.
Where do they get their powers from?
The Commission were created under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.
What is the test they apply?
They under Section 13 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 assess any conviction and decide whether there is a reasonable possibility that if they refer the conviction the Court of Appeal will not uphold it.
What does this test mean?
It requires the Commission to undertake an objective assessment of whether the Court in light of the grounds for referral might quash the conviction that is they would not uphold the original conviction
What about sentences?
The Commission like the Court of Appeal have to be satisfied that the Court would determine the sentence was manifestly excessive. In certain cases a referral might also occur where the commission spots that the sentence imposed was unlawful but the Commission would also need to be satisfied that this would result in a real benefit to the applicant.
Can I go to the CCRC before appealing to the Court of appeal?
Not usually. The Commission does preserve an exceptional route where there are grounds which justify them accepting the case. This might involve a case where the commission would be best placed to undertake sensitive enquiries. Because it is an exceptional route the Commission is naturally guarded in not taking too many cases in such a scenario.
Why can’t the CCRC consider grounds I advanced to the Court of Appeal?
The Commissions role is to take a fresh look at new matters raised over a wrongful conviction. As a result generally it will not be able to look at a point you already raised with the Court of Appeal – this will simply be a re-run of your Court of Appeal Case which is not permitted.
This does not mean however that the CCRC will never look at grounds which the Court of Appeal examined. For example new law may mean the Court was wrong in its approach or more usually more evidence may come to light which may make it proper for the issue to be reconsidered.
How do I apply to the CCRC?
The CCRC operate an easy access form and this can be completed and submitted to the CCRC
Why is it advisable to have a solicitor?
Independent research which the CCRC cooperated with shows that good representation can make a real difference to the quality of your application. This does not mean it guarantees a successful outcome, just that it improves the quality and your prospects
What happens to my application?
As a body the CCRC regularly changes its processes. However as a first stage usually it sifts your application and decides whether it can accept it. If it can documents are preserved form the Police, Solicitors, The Court and Third parties where appropriate.
The case will then go in a waiting list for a Case Review Manager. If the issues in your case can be determined relatively quickly then it will be quicker as longer cases have to wait longer to be reviewed.
In addition Custody cases are dealt with more quickly than for those people who have been released or not sent to prison.
How long will it take?
The CCRC is under resourced. Waiting times go up and down depending upon demand. However you will probably wait at least 12 months for your case to start and in complex cases the review can take many months if not years.
What if the Commission decides they will refuse my case?
IF they decide not to refer they currently issue a provisional statement not to refer. This gives you or your representatives chance to respond, on a number of occasions we have experience of the CCRC changing its mind at this stage as a result of representations.
What if the Commission refer my case?
If the Commission decide to refer your case they will issue a statement of reasons which will be sent to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal must then give you permission to appeal and a representation order. A hearing date will be fixed and your appeal will be heard in London before the Court of Appeal.
What are my chances if the Commission refer my case?
If the Commission Refer your case then currently about 2/3 of the referrals lead to a successful outcome.
How do I get my CCRC application off the Ground Successfully?
Your best option is to speak to a Solicitor with a proven track record of CCRC Referrals. You may be eligible for legal aid or if not make sure you get a lawyer who can do the work for you on a clear and transparent basis. You should seek a fixed fee wherever possible and be clear about what you are getting for your money.
If a lawyer makes over optimistic promises to you then they are probably not being truthful.