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Sussex lawyers receive £287k grant for 'timely and important' research

The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Lawyers and Legal Representation-

When it was established in in 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) became the independent organisation designed to examine suspected miscarriages of justice. Anyone convicted of a criminal offence can apply to have their case examined by the CCRC, regardless of whether or not they are represented by a lawyer or campaign group. The CCRC has extensive powers of investigation to determine whether a case should in fact be referred to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration. Cases are assessed on whether or not they are eligible for review (broadly, an appeal has already been made and lost) and then on the basis of whether or not there is a ‘real possibility’ that the finding would not be upheld if a referral was made.

Research has shown that the presence of legal representation does improve the quality of submissions made to the CCRC (Hodgson, J and Horne, J ‘The extent and impact of legal representation on applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission’ (Legal Services Commission, 2008)). When that research was conducted, about 34% of applicants were legally represented. The lawyer’s role was considered crucial to the referral in 49% of cases where the applicant was legally represented, while unrepresented applicants had a 50.8% of the case being closed at the earliest stages on the basis of ineligibility compared to 18.4% of represented applicants. More recent research commissioned by the CCRC indicates that levels of legal representation have now dropped to less than a quarter of applicants. Research is required on the impact of cuts to legal aid on applicants to the CCRC.

That research is being conducted by members of the Crime Research Centre based the University of Sussex (Prof Richard Vogler, Dr Lucy Welsh, Dr Susann Wiedlitzka and Dr Liz McDonnell). The research will be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to commence in January 2019. The project will consist of 4 stages of research: a review of files held at the CCRC; a survey of lawyers who prepare applications to the CCRC; in-depth interviews with a smaller group of those lawyers; and focus groups with CCRC staff. The findings will be prepared for publications and reported (via the CCRC) to the Justice Committee. Once this project has concluded, it may be expanded to include the experience of applicants to the CCRC.

By: Laura Arnold
Last updated: Thursday, 29 November 2018