Miscarriages of justice occur when unfair treatment is inflicted on an individual by the criminal justice system i. e. by the courts or the agencies. A miscarriage of justice is where an individual is unfairly treated in the justice system by going to prison or found guilty for something s/he haven't done. This can be seen for the period of the 1980's where there were major miscarriages in justice, which were the consequence in a public protest about the criminal justice system.
Many people disapprove of the Home Office because the way they functioned and also the Appeal Courts because they did not identify potential miscarriages where people had been wrongfully convicted. Nevertheless the use of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 changed all this as it restored the Home Office with the CCRC (Criminal Cases Review Commission) this was set up on the 1st of January 1997. The Commission in this body consider whether cases should be referred to the court of appeal.
The main target is to review cases that they believe have been wrongly convicted of criminal offences or which have been incorrectly sentenced. It is not up to the CCRC to make judgment on that person but to look at new evidence, which can determine another outcome. The CCRC uses its own resources when weighing up cases. For example to obtain relevant material from public bodies they can use S. 17 of the Act. Under S. 19 of the act they appoint outside experts to organise reports and require the appointment of an Investigating Officer.
When analysing the information if they think that the case should be sent to the courts again it shall be sent. This can only be done when a group of three commissioners have decided that the case should be sent otherwise a single commissioner couldn't make this decision. It is up to the commission when the case is assessed to see if the conviction can be overthrown or a reduced sentence given. If the commissioner judges that the case has been wrongly judged in the first place and something can be done about it then it is sent of for review. In 2005-06 38% of cases were closed at this first stage.
Due to a single commissioner making this key decision this stage has been condemned. In order to give an explanation for the method used an candidate could reapply to the commission and a commissioner who was not involved in any earlier applications would be able to come to the conclusion whether any new issue have arisen out of the case. The second stage is the Screen Review stage; in 2005-06 51% of cases were closed at this stage. This stage consist of a case worker who reviews the cases as the CCRC are short staffed so the decision is left up to the case worker.
Cases that may take up to 5 working days can go into a queue for stage 2 review. Stage two of the review is very important and the most critical part of the CCRC process. A commissioner is assigned to each caseworker that can then help them and advise them on a case. Because the case can take up a lot of time planning committees are set up so they can concentrate on the case. It has become aware of that only in the final stage the CCRC tend to concentrate upon the miscarriages of justice cases and give it there full care and attention. In 2005-06 11% of all cases were closed at this stage.
The final stage is review stage 3; this is where the commission decides to appoint an Investigating Officer if an investigation is rather difficult to understand or if various other crimes are involved. The investigation Officer submits a report to the Commission for them to consider it. Since 1997 only a small number of 32 Investigating Officers have been selected to review 40 cases. However there have been many debates regarding the fact that only a limited number of cases are given to Investigate over such a long period of time and how there is a limited number of Investigating Officers looking into all the cases.
After all these stages have been completed it is then over a long period of time it is then decided upon whether the case should be referred to the courts and this procedure tends to affect the CCRC's ability to be effective. The duties of the CCRC and its states are defined in the Criminal Appeals Act 1995. Its role is to assess cases where maybe there might be a case of miscarriage of justice and refer this to the courts by investigating it, for the chance of the conviction or sentence to be up held Overall, the fundamental objective must be that the commission becomes and remains an effective remedy for those who are compelled to use it.
Since April 1997 the commission has been established and has only completed 1,202 cases, this is actually a third less then what's expected. The CCRC work at such a slow pace due to the high amount of investigation and thought it takes to work out a case it has been doubted to be ineffective so they are looking on increasing the numbers of case workers to speed the process up. The CCRC's consultation paper states that the easier cases are dealt more efficiently and quicker.
This contradicts the CCRC as they have a remedy for the simpler cases and not found a solution for the more difficult ones. This is in order to produce a better resolution rate showing that the more complex cases are not being dealt with. There is also a major limitation of concentrating on exceptional miscarriages cases that are brought to light via the extra-judicial procedures of the CCRC, is that all manner of routine miscarriages have been neglected. The commission rose to the challenge against the high rate of applications against the limited resources they had during 2005-2006.
In the annual report many changes were stated by the commission that came into action in regards to the review process, such as appointing case review manager as group leaders so the work is done more effectively and these appointments took affect on the 6th march. Because of this the commission completed 1012 cases, however the intake of cases was 938 but there was also 73 re-applications, which were not referred to the courts, as they were no new evidence that came to light. On the 31st of March 2005 the waiting period for cases reduced from 368 to 247 a year later on the same date.
As stage two is the most intensive part of the whole process, it is still rather time consuming and this has raised many issues. On the other hand the CCRC believe that the new changes that have taken place will reduce the waiting time . It could take up to 6 years for a case to be reviewed, which displays a lack of effectiveness on behalf of the Commission. Word of mouth say that the CCRC is a money making scheme and a waste of the tax mans money. In the case of Andrew Adams1 the CCRC look into his case and decided that this case should be referred to the courts because Mr.
Adams received insufficient legal advice, as there had been mistakes in the calculations of the case as well as the prosecution tampering with the evidence. The Court of Appeal finally overturned the conviction on The 12th of January 2007 and he was freed for a crime he did not commit after 14 years. The Court of appeal rejected his first appeal in 1997 and when this had happened he turned to the CCRC, the CCRC reviewed his case and found that his sentence may be a miscarriage of justice so they sent it back to the court of appeal to be reviewed in September 2005.
In December 2006 the second appeal took place where the courts realised that his conviction should be over turned because the evidence in the first trail was insufficient. The conviction was overturned on the 12th January. This shows how much time it can take the CCRC to review a case and over turn a conviction. In the case above you can see how important the role of the CCRC can be. This cases was very popular in the eye of the media, this could be one of the reasons why the CCRC gave it so much significance.
The effective of the CCRC was heavily criticised as to whether the cases would be scrutinised and that the commissioners assured the public that each application sent to them would be thoroughly examined. Two list were formed by the CCRC, 'Liberty List' and the 'Priority List. The prisoners who apply whilst in prison they would automatically be put on the 'priority list' which made sense because if there were not guilty and serving a sentence it would need to be seen to first and the ones remaining are put on the 'liberty list'.
The 'liberty list' is not as efficient as the other as it works at a slower pace, which results in the waiting time to reach up to 5 years. This seems very unfair on other prisoners and people and can have many drawbacks on them There are 14 members in the commission. The problem that lies in the CCRC is that the government does not give them enough funding, so there's not enough case workers being employed to take on the work so this is slowing the review stage down, the critics state that the CCRC are wholly independent. This is due to the build-up of all the cases. There are currently 1,200 that have yet still to be reviewed.
A former journalist Chris Mullin an MP, said: "Miscarriages of justice can occur under any system and I have no doubt they will occur in the future". 2 But Mr Mullin stated: "we should never be complacent. The system has improved considerably since the big miscarriages of the mid-1970s. The most important change is that people who believe they are victims of miscarriages of justice have somewhere to go: the CCRC. "3 Mr Mullin agrees to the fact that the CCRC has a build-up of cases and "could do with speeding up its handling of cases which have been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC have resulted in quashed convictions.
"4 Mr Mullin that adversarial process tends to have its flaws: "There is a strong case for a system which finds the truth, rather than a contrast strong case between skilled adversaries. But you should realise that the continental inquisitorial system had also led to miscarriages of justice. "5 The reason for this happening is due to the finances, which seems to be the problem where a body like this is funded publicly. The CCRC have admitted this problem but have also stated that this should change with the new structure of how cases shall be reviewed also the procedure that shall follow on the more difficult cases.