On 17th July 2019, Parliamentarians took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the decision making powers of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The debate was secured by Labour MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin.
Sandy Martin began by describing in detail the case of a man named Oliver Campbell. Oliver was convicted of murder in 1991 and served 11 years in prison. He was described as having a “low IQ”. Sandy Martin described a large amount of evidence which strongly suggested Oliver was innocent and wrongly convicted. Two years after he was released, CCRC concluded that there was no new information and therefore no reason to open a new appeal. CCRC allegedly ignored reports made by two psychologists, proving that Oliver was “intellectually challenged”. Martin believes that Oliver was not treated fairly or appropriately by the criminal justice system, taking into account his disability. Martin hopes to submit the details of Oliver’s case to Westminster as evidence. He urged the Minister to write to CCRC, asking them to rethink their decision on Oliver’s situation. According to Martin, many describe Oliver’s case as the “Clearest example of a Miscarriage of Justice that they have seen”.
Martin believes that CCRC needs a “Radical change in the way they deal with appeals”. He also stated that any criminal justice system that doesn’t provide all the evidence found to both sides prevents the correct decision from being reached. He described the “subordinate relationship” between the CCRC and the Court of Appeal. He questioned how The CCRC decides which cases to take up and requested that the minister institute a review of the decision making powers of the CCRC.
Edward Argar was the responding minister. He said that the CCRC plays a vital and valuable role in retaining the confidence of the criminal justice system. He mentioned the report of CCRC released in February. He said that it had included many recommendations and also highlighted that “too many cases took too long to resolve”. In response to Oliver Campbell’s case, Argar stated that CCRC would welcome an application to review the case. If that failed, he suggested that they could reply for a judicial review.
Barry Sheerman made several interventions. He described the CCRC as “under resourced” and also suggested that the staff work “part time” and “from home”. Argar responded, saying that this allows “flexibility” and allows the “most effective management of the case” He also raised the issue that people whose jail time is reduced by the CCRC get none of the support when they are released offered to those who are guilty and serve their full sentence. Finally, he also suggested that “Senior judges don’t like this system (CCRC)” to which Argar responded that senior judicial figures “Very much support the work of the CCRC.”
The CCRC have responded to the debate, stating that the Commission looked in great depth at Mr Campbell’s case when reviewing it. The CCRC went on to encourage Mr Campbell and his representatives to publish the detailed document which gives detailed reasons why they could not refer the case for appeal, as “unfortunately the law prohibits the CCRC from publishing the document”.
The full transcript from the Westminster Hall debate can be found here.
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