On 14 March 1991, the then Home Secretary announced the establishment of a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, under the chairmanship of Viscount Runciman. Many significant reforms have followed from that Royal Commissionís wide-ranging July 1993 report. One of the most important reforms is the establishment of an independent body, to review and investigate suspected miscarriages of justice, and to refer any cases where there is a real possibility that the conviction, finding, verdict or sentence will not be upheld to an appropriate appeal court.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission was established in January 1997 (by authority of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995), and took over responsibility for reviewing applications in March 1997.
A discretion which was exclusively for the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to exercise is thus now regulated by a set of statutory criteria, and entrusted to the Members and staff of an independent body removed from political or judicial influence.
It is important that claims that there has been a miscarriage of justice should be dealt with as quickly as possible so that any injustice can be put right and so that, where the claim is rejected, everyone concerned can know where they stand and get on with their lives. The development of performance indicators which is promised in this document will make a significant contribution to building public confidence in a system which we all wish to see working efficiently and effectively.
I believe that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will come to play a key role in enhancing public confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of the criminal justice system as a whole, as Parliament intended, and I look forward to seeing it do so.
[The above text (which was apparently written by Jack Straw) was lifted from the website of the Criminal Cases Review Commission on March 7, 2001: Alexander Baron, March 8, 2001.]
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