'Regulated from a spirit of hostility': Independence and the Criminal Cases Review Commission

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


As a result of public concern about notorious miscarriage of justice cases such as the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four in the 1970s and 1980s, a number of reforms were made to the criminal justice system following the 1993 Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. One change was the creation of an independent state-funded watchdog to investigate possible miscarriages. In 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was born. In certain cases, the CCRC can refer the case back to the Court of Appeal if it believes that there is a real possibility of the conviction being overturned. The CCRC presently receives about 1,500 applications a year, mainly from prisoners claiming their innocence. Over the CCRC’s first 20 years it referred 652 cases to the Court of Appeal which means an average of 32.6 referrals a year. In 2017 the CCRC referred 12 cases back to the Court of Appeal which represented a referral rate of just 0.77 per cent. That marked a dramatic fall from an average of 3 per cent. In 2018, the CCRC referred 19 cases and, in 2019, 13 cases.

A report commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice, published early 2021, called upon the CCRC to ‘demonstrate its independence’. It also noted that the Commission had suffered the ‘biggest cut’ of any part of the criminal justice system since 2010 and its caseload had more than doubled over the same period.

This chapter will set out why the CCRC’s independence was fundamental to those who made the case for the establishment of what was then considered to be a unique innovation in a criminal justice system; how the original proposals for the CCRC attempted to secure its independence; and account for recent developments which undermine that independence. Finally, it will make the case that such changes have irreversibly changed the justice watchdog despite its statutory protections.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChallenges in Criminal Justice
EditorsEd Johnston
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000619560
ISBN (Print)9780367698072
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2022


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