Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Christopher Moody

  It was my understanding that the CCRC was set up to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice in England and Wales.

  The information pack suggests that the CCRC will investigate all miscarriages thoroughly and independently, however the reality seems not to suggest this at all. The CCRC only look at the evidence presented to them by the applicant, and in the case where this applicant submits an inept application for whatever reason, maybe he or she, does not fully understand the way the CCRC works, or that they have had no help in submitting their application, the application is often refused, this could also incorporate when the applicant does not know that he or she can ask for the CCRC to investigate specific lines such as cell confessions, and other specific points within a case.

  The CCRC should take a look at all cases presented to them and where appropriate, investigate each case, however long this may take. They should not worry about clearing up their backlog of cases at a speed that undoubtedly causes genuine cases to be overlooked. I think one way this could be achieved is for the case worker of each case to have more contact with any new applicant so as to ascertain as much information as possible before the case is put through the screening process.

  The other way this could be achieved without any obstacles would be for the CCRC to have much more information for any potential new applicant of how the CCRC works and what they need to assist them with the assessment of each case. This would assist both the CCRC and the applicant, speeding up the whole process.

  It would serve the CCRC to have cases that only need one assessment and could be successfully dealt with instead of having a growing culture of cases that are originally put to them with inadequate information as a result of lack of information for any new applicant. This would stop the clogging of the system with cases that are looked at more than once by the CCRC because the applicant was not sure what the CCRC needed and was therefore told to re-apply to the CCRC when they had the correct information and evidence required by the CCRC to assess any case thoroughly.

  In the cases where the applicant has to re-apply it would make more sense to be able to access the same case worker you originally had. This would free many hours of covering ground already covered and could result in a drastic reduction in waiting time.

  The way the CCRC prioritise cases, from petty crime to the more serious of cases such as murder, seems to be that the CCRC take a view that the bigger the crime and the bigger the sentence, the longer you can wait for an investigation or at least a screening. Is it not fair to say that cases of such gravity like murder or robbery should get the same treatment as those of the lesser offences? If a case such as mine, where I have been wrongly convicted of murder on such thin evidence as a single cell confession, were assessed properly, it could be said that I have more to lose by spending a greater length of time in prison wrongly convicted, and at the side of a crime where the applicant is more than likely to have already been released been released by the prison after completing their sentence. It would make better sense to have a different system so as to enable the length of time the applicant is serving is taken into account and not discriminated against by the fact that the applicant is serving a longer sentence.

  It could also be said that in the cases where the applicant is of high profile due to length of time already served, as in the case of Mr Steven Downing, or the high profile case like that of the school teacher who was convicted of the murder of his step daughter Billy Joe Jankings, are propelled through the CCRC at an alarming speed, should the same necessity not be shown for all cases of probable miscarriages of justice.

  If a case was as clear cut as the CCRC would like before they take it on, is it not fair to say that this case would in fact reach the appeal court without the CCRC pushing it along, and if this is the case then is the CCRC only looking for cases that will give them both an easy time and a good success rate with the cases they take on, and again if this is the case does this not undermine the whole purpose that the CCRC was set up for.

  In essence the CCRC should give all cases the same amount of consideration and investigation, whether the case be high profile or just another case that may be a miscarriage of justice.

  In my experience as a person of past criminal convictions, once you are convicted of a crime, whatever its nature, the book of help is made ever more difficult to enter into, and where the victim is not only the person the crime has been committed against, but is also the person that has been sentenced, there needs to be a reliable organisation that you can turn to for help, and when you do, trust that they will abide by their word and fully investigate your case uncovering every detail that may help overturn a wrongful conviction and also ensure justice is done for the victims of all crimes.

  My conclusion is that the CCRC needs to be more forthcoming with its workings and expectations of the sort of information required to carry out its work. It needs to think about the people that are applying to it and understand that many of those individuals are educated to a low standard and often need great help in understanding applications and expectations.

  Making applications simpler could help both the CCRC with applications and help the applicant to supply the correct information, ensuring that once their application has been screened a full and fair judgment can be passed on that particular case. This would inevitably lead to less cases been referred back to the CCRC for a second time.

  I hope my view of the CCRC is of some benefit to your hearing, even if it is only a minor point in the whole document that is helpful to know from a prisoners point of view, then I am pleased I could offer it to you for your better judgement.

February 2002

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