Straw pulls justice body funds

The overburdened and underfunded Criminal Cases Review Commission has had its' application for additional funding rejected by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

The Home Office has taken 12 months to come to a decision over the funding which was desperately needed to cover this financial year.

The intention of the CCRC was to employ additional caseworkers, and premises to house them, which are urgently required to cope with a major backlog of cases. Sources say that the delay between receipt of an application and assigning someone to look at the case can currently extend beyond three years.

A spokeswoman for the CCRC says they currently receive about five applications a day.

The CCRC has so far completed work on 587 cases and refered over 30 to the Court of Appeal. Among the high profile cases are Derek Bentley, Danny McNamee, Mahmood Mattan and James Hanratty. Over 1,000 applications are still waiting to be allocated a case worker.

This means, for example, that a person falsely convicted to five years in prison, can have served their sentence by the time they have exhausted all appellate avenues and the CCRC get round to looking at the case.

Set up in January 1997, the CCRC is currently on a budget of £4.3m and were only seeking an additional £1.3m, the refusal of which will be raised at this Tuesday's hearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Mark Leech, chairman of ex-offenders lobby and support group UNLOCK, said: “you will always get miscarriages of justice, no matter how well prepared the criminal justice system is, but the true test of justice is the speed and zeal with which they are released and a delay, even of two years, is wholly inadequate.”