Thursday, 9 July 2015

Criminal Cases Review Commission ~ Powers to investigate ~ Private Members' Bill

The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice reported in 1993 and made a key recommendation that a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) be created.  It was duly created by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.  The present day commission investigates suspected miscarriages from magistrates courts, the Crown Court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Court Martial and Service Civilian Court.

To conduct investigations, adequate powers are required to obtain documents or other material which the Commission believes to be held by others. This is addressed by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 section 17 but this section is limited to documents or other material held by PUBLIC bodies. 
Section 17(1) states:

"This section applies where the Commission believe that a person serving in a public body has possession or control of a document or other material which may assist the Commission in the exercise of any of their functions."

Since the creation of the CCRC, the delivery of many previous public functions has been transferred to privately operated bodies.  A need to extend the powers of the CCRC to such bodies was recognised in the House of Commons Justice Committee 12th Report of Session 2014-15.  Page 21 of the report indicates that the CCRC has long been pressing for this extension of power and also noted that the equivalent Scottish Commission has had such a power from the outset.  The Ministry of Justice did not bring forward legislative proposals but had hoped that a Private Members' Bill might have used.  No member actually chose to to pick up the topic even though a "hand-out Bill" may have been available.

In a ballot for Private Members' Bills held on 4th June 2015, the new MP for Hazel Grove (Mr William Wragg) obtained 14th place out of 20 names drawn and the subject of his Bill is extending the powers of the CCRC.  Private Members Bills face considerable difficulty in becoming law though the chances will be much greater if the government supports the Bill or, better still, adopts the matter and includes it in an appropriate government Bill.

Mr Wragg's Bill will be printed and become available on the Bills before Parliament webpage.  It will have a second reading in the House of Commons on 5th December - one of the 13 dates on which Private Members Bills can be debated in the 2015-16 session.

Bills before Parliament - Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Bill 2015-16

Note: 

462 MPs entered the Private Members' Bill ballot and 20 were drawn.  In the 2014-15 session, 7 such Bills became law.

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