Victims of miscarriages of justice protest at CCRC

Delay, incompetence & bias by body tasked to right legal wrongs 

Birmingham, UK – 10 May 2024

55 victims and supporters of people who claim to be unjustly jailed protested today, 10 May, outside the HQ of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in Birmingham.

Peter Tatchell delivered a letter to Helen Pitcher, Chair of the CCRC, calling on her to publicly respond to the issues raised at the demonstration. The letter urged swifter and fairer assessment of cases submitted by prisoners who are protesting their innocence and seeking a review of their convictions, including Jeremy Bamber and Luke Mitchell.

The protest was organised by the campaign group, Innocent: Failed by the CCRC – an umbrella group set up by the Jeremy Bamber Innocence Campaign (JBIC).

The protesters held placards including:

“Justice for Susan May. You will never be forgotten”. She died in 2013 and the CCRC has still not considered her case.

“Freedom for Robin Garbutt.” His case was submitted to the CCRC in 2015 but has still not been considered by the CCRC.”

“Free Clive Freeman. Britain’s longest serving prisoner of a miscarriage of justice.” He’s been in prison for 37 years proclaiming his innocence.

“Innocent! Failed by the CCRC!”

They chanted: “2-4-6-8! Don’t delay, don’t wait! 3-5-7-9 Give us justice. It’s time!”

Some wore t-shirts with the wording: “Innocent: Failed by the CCRC! Jeremy Bamber.”

The protest criticised the CCRC’s “delays, incompetence and bias against prisoners who have presented evidence of wrongful convictions”:

  • Unacceptably long time it takes the CCRC to look at the evidence of the wrongful convictions they receive.
  • CCRC’s connections to police forces and CCRC employees who are former police officers, and the potential bias this creates (the police, in effect, “marking their own homework”).
  • Refusal to investigate cases properly and obtain relevant disclosure of evidence withheld by police.
  • Refusal to pay for, or commission, forensic work (as happened in the recent Andrew Malkinson case and others).
  • Moving the goal posts and delaying updates about their case work.
  • Unjust refusals to refer cases to the Court of Appeal where evidence of wrongful convictions is strong.

Human rights defender, Peter Tatchell, said:

“The CCRC has failed to require Essex Police, and other public bodies, to disclose hundreds of items of vital evidence that were withheld at Jeremy Bamber’s original trial in 1986 and his subsequent appeals. He cannot have a new fair appeal until all evidence is made available to his legal team. The wholesale police suppression of evidence means that Jeremy Bamber did not get a fair trial. His conviction is unsafe. To give Jeremy a chance to remedy this injustice, the CCRC must insist that the Chief Constable of Essex, and others, comply in full with court orders to hand over all the undisclosed evidence to Bamber’s solicitors. For many years, it has failed to do so.”

Jeremy Bamber said:

“The Criminal Cases Review Commission came into existence in the 1990s, taking over from the Home Office department’s C3 Division, as a result of a spate of miscarriage of justice cases. In my view, the Commission was set up in a rush, and without due care and attention, with regard to how it would be staffed, or even what type of people might be allowed to work there.

“It is not known what vetting was, or is, carried out to ensure that potentially corrupt individuals can never be allowed to work for the Commission in any capacity. More importantly still, when the CCRC was set up, no one ever considered that investigations by the Commission’s employees may lead to them having conflicts of interest within the applications that they were examining.

“No one thought that there might be a requirement for an Ombudsman to adjudicate upon such matters, so nothing was put in place to oversee any potential difficulties with resolving disputes. No measures were, it appears, put in place to prevent corrupt individuals, or those with obvious conflicts of interests, working for the CCRC, with no Ombudsman being set up, resulting in no oversight of their work at all.”

Jeremy Bamber’s solicitor, Mark Newby, added:

“For many years we have expressed concerns over how the Commission operates, and the delays which occur in such reviews. Whilst funding cuts and the referral test contribute to the problems, there remains a real concern over the CCRC’s investigation model, and this is amplified when they are charged with investigating police misconduct cases.

“There is a lack of accountability for reviews and decision making, with particular concerns arising in relation to the choice of investigators utilised by the commission. Equally, the decisions made by the Commission on disclosure, and the failure to undertake actual investigations rather than relying on records or assurances, is troubling.

“In 2014, the Chair of the CCRC promised to learn lessons from the Nealon Case, yet the Malkinson Case in 2023 suggests this did not happen.

“We hope this protest will help focus attention on the genuine concerns that need addressing if we are to have a robust independent review system for miscarriage of justice cases.”

Emma Morris of the Bamber campaign team said:

“We set up “Innocent: Failed by the CCRC” as an alliance to bring together those who are being failed by the CCRC in a similar way to Jeremy Bamber.  There are many people fighting their cases with the CCRC that may have thought the problems they were having with the CCRC were unique to them.

“However, coming together with others shows it’s not just you, or the case you’re fighting for; the problems are endemic within the CCRC.  They have less than a 2% referral rate back to the Court of Appeal, and we’re hearing so many stories of those who turned to them for help but were, instead, failed by the CCRC.

“Their inaction and apathy leaves applicants’ lives, health and wellbeing in tatters and, of course, they receive no justice.  As Andrew Malkinson said upon proving his innocence, ‘I’m not the only one’.  The CCRC was set up to be the gateway to justice, and now they have proven to be the barrier to it.”