The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) recently marked 25 years of investigating miscarriages of justice with an event thanking a range of organisations who had helped them in their mission.
The event took place in the House of Lords and an invitation was extended to Your Consultation Group (YCG) in recognition of its support to the CCRC over the last 5 years in promoting access to justice for prisoners and its recent national prison campaign to promote the work of the CCRC.
The CCRC performs an important statutory function to provide public confidence that convictions are safe, and sentences are not manifestly unfair. The Commission is wholly independent of the police and courts and has extensive powers to require disclosure of evidence which might not have been produced at trial.
YCG Trust provides information and guidance to all stakeholders in the Criminal Justice Arena on all aspects of prison law, sentence planning, and progression. This work forms part of a wider programme of prisoner engagement carried out by Your Consultation Group.
The CCRC has been working with YCG Trust as part of a national campaign to ensure that those prisoners who have legitimate grounds for suspecting their convictions are wrong or their sentences manifestly unfair can be seen by a CCRC caseworker.
Upon advertising our work at a prison in the Midlands in recent weeks we received over 100 applications to see the CCRC within 72 hours.
YCG Trust’s Managing Director Dr Timothy Shaw commented on the shared success of the campaign. “Upon advertising our work at a prison in the Midlands in recent weeks we received over 100 applications to see the CCRC within 72 hours of the service being advertised, with two-thirds of the applicants meeting the screening test. This demonstrates the need for prisoner outreach. The formal feedback from prisoners has been hugely positive in every establishment we have visited, and we are grateful to staff across the estate involved in facilitating the surgeries.”
Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of the CCRC has taken a direct interest in the outreach programme. Helen observed that: “Miscarriages of justice are a big issue. A good day at the Commission is when you uncover a potential referral. You can actually feel it here because everybody gets so excited by the fact that yes, there’s something in this and we can refer. So, letting people know who we are, where we are, and how to access us is really important because there’s an awful lot of people out there, including criminal lawyers, who don’t know who we are and what we do and also the general public.”
Helen also recognises the success of the relationship YCG has built with the CCRC. “I’ve found working with Tim and his colleagues at YCG Trust hugely rewarding as
they are very good at talking to the prison population and explaining at what point in time and how they should come to us. Which makes our job just that little bit easier to do. I’d like to see YCG Trust go into more prisons and anything I can do to smooth those wheels I will happily do, because I think that this is a very important resource.”
If you have new evidence or think that the CCRC might be able to use its powers to secure evidence that was not provided by the prosecution at your trial, or at your appeal, then you should apply directly to the CCRC – more information can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk. You should also apply if you think there are procedural grounds that render your conviction unsafe or where you think that the sentencing guidelines have been breached. The application forms are widely available. If you are unsure and would like to check the merits of your case, you can book an appointment for one of the surgery days.