Judicial Review 2012

Judicial Review of The CCRC's Refusal to Refer the Case to the Court of Appeal in 2012

On the 29th of November 2012, Jeremy Bamber's lawyer made an oral submission to the High Court in a bid for a Judicial Review of The Criminal Cases Review Commission's decision not to refer his case for appeal. The application for Judicial Review was refused. The role of the CCRC is politically valuable and the judiciary are also keen to see the institution maintained. To read the judgement, which makes reference to the weakest part of the applications to support its case, click this link.

The CCRC has been under public scrutiny for some years now with 96% of applications being rejected.[1] You only have to surf the web for a few minutes to see campaigns from all areas – even former Commissioners like David Jessel[2] are speaking out about its shortcomings. This is a serious issue and the CCRC are under pressure to perform, but they are underfunded and mismanaged.

Jeremy Bamber, one of the UK's highest profile prisoners, convicted for the murder of his family back in 1986, had his latest bid for an appeal rejected by the CCRC back in April, after waiting 8 years for the final decision. The forensic evidence submitted was strong with reports by some of the world’s leading forensic scientists. The material fitted all of the CCRC's criteria, sitting within Section 23 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968.

If Jeremy Bamber had won his Judicial Review of the CCRC decision, it would have meant that their competency, veracity and integrity would be brought into question. Moreover, handling of all the cases they have rejected (and possibly those they have put through to appeal) could have even required review.

The wider implications of the Judicial Review were within the level of public interest as the CCRC is not fully independent as it claims, but it is a Government body or ‘quango’ – publicly funded, and reporting directly to the Justice Minister – it is politically controlled, nothing like a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). Curiously coinciding with this case was the CCRC’s Triennial Review and the Government were calling for applicants to share their experiences directly with the review board.[5] Alternatives are already being suggested by campaigners, and The Centre for Criminal Appeals is a worthy contender.[6]

There are other suggestions, particularly from Bamber himself, that the process should be shifted from political control back to judicial hands, for example, Preliminary Appeal Submissions should be heard by a single judge and submitted formally by a lawyer. It is unlikely that the Government will change the structure of the appeals process without significant public pressure. There has to be a serious and high profile reason for the Government to act, for example, if Jeremy Bamber had won the Judicial Review, but with grounds for Judicial Review being pulled tighter by new Justice Secretary, Christ Grayling, hope for others fighting for their freedom could be lost.

Dr Michael Naughton, Director of the Innocence Network and Senior Lecturer at Bristol University has written a book on the problems of the CCRC.[3] Naughton provides statistics, showing that Miscarriage of Justice cases being overturned each year are in their thousands and at an average of 18 per day, the Government can no longer insist this is a rare ‘phenomenon.’ Back in 2005, Andrew Hunter MP, raised the matter of non-disclosure of documents in Parliament. He was told that the CCRC was 'nobody's patsy' and still, 7 years later, there is no disclosure of the material Hunter was referring to. [4]

Campaigners are concerned that now, and in the future, the Government require political control of the process of overturning convictions, simply because we will end up with a situation where large numbers of convictions could be overturned, owing to the level of police corruption from the 1970’s and 1980’s onwards. This would be similar to the phenomenon seen in the early 1990’s,[7] where the overturned convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four brought the justice system into disrepute, undermining confidence in the judicial process at a time when the integrity of the entire judiciary is being brought into question. It is highly likely that none of these high profile cases would have made it to the appeal court via the CCRC and were referred to the court under its predecessor, the Home Office section C3 department.

The CCRC is proven time and time again to ignore or give un-plausible explanations for instances of police corruption without formally responding, or addressing the evidence in any way and this is prevalent in many cases including those of Susan May and Eddie Gilfoyle to name just two.[8] Issues of funding, and the quality of the work by CCRC ‘case managers’ is also in question, with the Commission needlessly ‘sitting on cases’ for up to 10 years. This is obviously an unacceptable situation.

All of our fears might be realised when Bamber’s conviction is eventually overturned in the Court of Appeal. It is a worrying concern for more victims of 'the system' in that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will continue to flout the law, and cover-up police corruption unhindered by the wheels of justice. When will we ever learn that justice is for the judiciary and politics has no part in it?

At the High Court Jeremy's lawyer addressed how the Commission ignored new forensic evidence by leading experts in the United States, and will also mention that 'New evidence continues to emerge from additional investigative work, most recently that telephone logs which formed a critical plank of the Crown’s case, have demonstrably been “manipulated” by Essex Police.'

As Bamber lost his application for Judicial Review he has to make new Submissions to the CCRC, they are known to take up to 9 months to allocate a case manager and in the meantime an innocent man's life ebbs away in prison at the cost of £80,000 to the tax payer each year.


[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/27/criminal-cases-review-commission-reform-campaign

[2] http://www.davidjessel.co.uk/index.php?/Articles/article/campaigners_and_the_commission/

[3] Naughton, M The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? 2012 ed.http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/11/neil-hurley

[4] Andrew Hunter MP tabled a question in Parliament in 2005 asking why the CCRC had not obtained disclosure of documents from Essex Police, he was told the CCRC was nobody’s patsy and that if required documents would be obtained. There is still not full disclosure. Download a transcript here http://www.jeremy-bamber.co.uk/in-parliament

[5] https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/ccrc-triennial-review/consult_view

[6] http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/

[7] Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Bridgewater three, Cardiff Three and more.

[8] Unrelated to CCRC but more broadly see corruption where 8 officers were acquitted is the Cardiff Three.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-15981541