CASE REVIEWS: justice delay for those wrongly convicted

The chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has attacked 'mindless' budget cuts, warning that they could delay justice for the wrongly-convicted.

The CCRC's funding, which comes from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), fell by 3.7% from £7.9 million to £7.6 million over the last year, despite an increase in its workload.

The body, which reviews alleged miscarriages of justice, received 1,051 applications in 2006-07, compared with 1,011 the previous year. It closed 990 cases, down 2%.

It also referred 38 cases to the appeal court during the year. The court, meanwhile, decided the cases of 47 people previously referred by the commission, 70% of which resulted in a quashed conviction or reduced sentence.

In the CCRC's annual report, published last week, Professor Graham Zellick said: 'Standard annual across-the-board reductions in budgets for public bodies are mindless. They have no regard to whether the body is adequately-funded in the first place, assume that all bodies are over-funded and that further economies must be possible.'

Professor Zellick said the current resource levels caused delay and resulted in the further denial of justice to some applicants - 'all for the sake of around £500,000 a year'.

An MoJ spokeswoman insisted the CCRC was properly funded. She said: 'Following a review of its case-working procedures by independent consultants, the CCRC has maintained and, in some respects, increased its performance. This confirms that there are efficiency savings that can and should be made.'

Catherine Baksi