The Extent and Impact of Legal Representation on Applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC)
60 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2009 Last revised: 12 Nov 2009
Date Written: October 6, 2009
The CCRC is not an innocence project. It is a publicly funded body that investigates miscarriages of justice. It is not concerned with guilt or innocence, but whether there is a realistic prospect that a conviction (or sentence) will be overturned by the Court of Appeal. It operates as a largely inquisitorial post-conviction review - leaving it unclear what the role of the adversarial defence lawyer should be. This report examines the extent to which applicants to the CCRC are legally represented and the impact this representation has on the outcome of the case. Whilst it is of concern that some lawyers are inactive or appear to submit applications that are ineligible or present no plausible grounds for review, generally, legally represented applicants had a significantly better chance of a better outcome. They were less likely to have their applications rejected at an early stage and more likely to have their case referred to the Court of Appeal. Of the 74 cases referred to the Court of Appeal on 2005-2007, lawyers had a determinative effect in 28 ie nearly 40%. In 11 cases (15%), the submissions of the applicant's lawyer caused the Commission to reverse its decision not to refer. Given that applicants are lay people and many have poor levels of literacy, a lawyer can be crucial in responding to the CCRC's detailed statements of reasons not to refer.
Keywords: miscarriage of justice, criminal appeal, criminal defence lawyer
JEL Classification: K14, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation