Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1-19)|
TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2002
1. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. May I
welcome you, Sir Frederick. I believe this is your third time
here, is it not?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) Fourth, Chairman.
2. I am afraid we are a bit depleted this morningwe
are competing with the Queen; nevertheless, we have not done too
badly. We thought we would start, if we may, by asking you some
questions about waiting times. Presumably you are going to lead
off, are you? How are you proposing to divide things up? What
we want to avoid is four answers to every question.
(Sir Frederick Crawford) I think I will take the brunt
of it, until we get to the sex abuse part, where Dr MacKeith and
David Jessel will weigh in; I will introduce that when the time
comes. I will field most of the questions.
Chairman: Other members should feel free
to come init is just that we do not want four answers to
every questionwhich occasionally happens, I am afraid.
3. Good morning, Sir Frederick. You aim to reduce
the waiting time in Tray 2 by half over in the next financial
year. How long is the average waiting time in Tray 2 at the moment?
What target do you aim to set if you achieve this for the year
(Sir Frederick Crawford) That is a very, very interesting
question, because in the coming year you will see we have 199
cases in Tray 2 at 31 March,
and we will probably finish somewhere between 200-220 cases during
the year, which means everything in Tray 2 now will be cleared;
that is where that statement comes from. Basically the ones that
work their way through to Tray 2 during this year will be there
during the whole of the year; so the average waiting time will
be six months for them. At the moment the average waiting time
is about a year for in-custody cases.
4. Can you tell us the age of the oldest in-custody
and at-liberty cases that are currently awaiting review?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) The oldest in-custody case
would be February 2000; and the oldest at-liberty case would be
5. Have you set the Commission a goal to reduce
that even further over the next financial year?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) I say it will come down,
so that both classes together, the at-liberty and the in-custody,
will be averaging six months at the end of the 2002-03 year. The
oldest case in the Tray will be roughly a year old then.
6. Although the Commission has succeeded in
reducing the backlog of cases awaiting review, the Court of Appeal
seems to be accumulating a backlog of cases that are awaiting
a hearing. Is there a risk that that is going to undermine what
you are going to achieve; and should these cases be given priority
in the court listings, do you think?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) The waiting time for the
Court of Appeal is about the waiting time for all cases that the
Court of Appeal deals with. Last year 448 convictions were dealt
with at the Court of Appeal; and their waiting time was almost
exactly the same as the waiting time for our cases, which were
about 280 working days; it is a little over a year. We have discussed
among ourselves the question of whether our cases should be given
priority, but not really conclusivelyI think that is a
matter for the Court of Appeal. I do not think, just because a
case has been slow to come to the appeal, that it is necessarily
the fault of the Court of Appeal. We have just finished the hearing
last week of the Hanratty case and we submitted that to
the Court over three years agothree years and a few weeks.
I do not think the Court of Appeal is responsible for that at
all. There are problems with the lawyers and the prosecution getting
their cases together; so separating out what is the Court of Appeal
and what is the CPS and the defence delaying it is something.
Once the case has left us we do not follow that through.
7. Much depends on the complexity, I imagine.
(Sir Frederick Crawford) The complexity of the case,
and availability of the lawyers. They may be mixed up, for example,
in the Bloody Sunday hearing and slow to come to the Hanratty
8. It still takes about two years for an in-custody
case that is going anywhere to reach the top of the pile, is that
(Sir Frederick Crawford) At the moment it is two years;
and next March 31, all being well, it will be one year at the
most. You should not forget that the average delay between conviction
and a case coming to us is already three and a half years.
9. That makes the case for urgency all the greater,
does it not, if you are sitting in a prison cell with not much
else to think about; and, given the fact you might perhaps have
to wait another year or more to reach the appeal court, you might
have served much of your sentence by that time?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) That is right. If they are
getting full remission, it would have to be a fairly long sentence
for them not to be out.
10. In which case, they would fall into the
(Sir Frederick Crawford) Only if they are released
before we start their case. We do not transfer them if they are
in custody then.
11. It is taking, what, nearly three years with
an at-liberty case?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) That is quite deliberate.
At one time (and I am going back a couple of years now) we were
not looking at any at-liberty cases, other than in Stage 1 (for
eligibility); when the Screen came at first we did the in-custodies;
then, as we began to catch up, we began to treat them the same.
If we had gone on indefinitely, not looking at the at-liberties
at Stage 2, then we would be right back to 1997 still. A year
or so ago we decided we would not let the difference between them
be more than one year. That is why it is exactly two years when
the at-liberties are exactly three.
12. What would you anticipate the at-liberties
coming down to eventually?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) Eventuallyif "eventually"
is 31 March 2005I should think it will be down to a few
13. You are confident that that is the way things
(Sir Frederick Crawford) Yes. I am afraid you get
into a tricky set of technical problems when you get a small queue;
because, in the end, how short the queue is depends on what bottlenecks
you have got. If, for example, it takes you three months to get
files from the Court of Appeal (if that were the average) then
you would never have a queue of less than three months. That is
an important bottleneck for us, and we do have an IT project from
the Invest to Save programme of £350,000 to develop an electronic
transfer system for files from the Court of Appeal. When you have
got a very long queue, bottlenecks do not matter because they
are shorter than the length of the queue. We are now getting to
the stage where we are beginning to feel the bottlenecks; and
how short the queue can be in the end depends on two things: first,
how many bottlenecks you can remove; and, second, how many extra
CRMs you are going to have beyond the number that will just
cope with the intake. If you have a number of Case Review Managers
which is exactly equal to the volume of work that comes in, in
the intake, the queue will grow for ever. You must always have
more CRMs than are needed to cope with the incoming cases. If
you have got enough extra CRMs the queue can be zero.
14. Following your last appearance here a lot
of extra money was made available, was it not?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) It actually preceded it by
a couple of weeks.
15. Turning to the number of Case Review Managers,
your goal of reducing the complement to 30, is that realistic
given that you expect them to take on additional tasks such as
data-analysis and record management?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) I have tried to be careful
in the way I have written it,
and say that 30 is the number that would be needed to cope with
the incoming cases; it does not take account of the filesthe
fact that after five years we will have to review the files (and
we have just got to five years). We do not know what legislation
is coming alongwhether the Auld Report will influence this,
and that is only a small part of the legislation; lots of other
things that happen affect us on the finance side and slow us down
in many other ways: the human rights legislation; the impact of
the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, which came into
force on 1 April 1997; those are working through the system, and
we do not know. The 30 would be to cope with the incoming cases.
As I said a moment or two ago, you will actually need slightly
more than that, otherwise the queue will grow to infinity. How
short the queue is depends on how many extra you have. There may
be two or three CRMs there, and you need them to do these extra
tasks that I have mentioned. One of the tasks we have never been
able to take up, because we have been overwhelmed by the caseload,
is that it is perfectly in order for us to go out looking for
cases in certain classes where there may have been miscarriages,
and to look for cases that have not been presented to us. We have
never had time to do that; but there are classes of cases, possibly
even in the child abuse area which we will come to later on, where
we could go out actively to look for possible miscarriages. That
could take up some extra CRMs.
16. What number do you think you would be looking
at rather than 30?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) It is very hard to estimate
that. If 30 was the minimum I doubt if you would need more than,
say, one or two to take care of the filescertainly not
in the first few years; because the files will reflect the rate
at which we were completing casesso a couple of hundred
in the first year, 500 in the second and then 1,000, 1,100 and
1,200; so it is four or five years from now when the biggest peak
would be and then it would go down again. My guess is that it
might be two or three CRMs for that. You might need an extra two
or three to be above the minimum, to cope with the caseload, but
they can use some of their spare time, the free time they have
when not helping with the caseload, to do these other jobs. It
is very, very hard, and I cannot tell what the intake is going
to be in three years' time. As I pointed out, it has gone up very
slightly in the last three years from 777, to 800, to 834.
Is that a trend? I do not know.
17. What is the current salary range for caseworkers
and Case Review Managers at the moment?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) It is about £24,000
to about £32,300, with an average of £28,600.
18. Is that sufficient to recruit and retain
(Sir Frederick Crawford) I can only think of a fairly
lengthy answer to that! The extent to which we want to retain
staff is a very important question. In the past when I have been
sitting at this Committee the question has been raised as to whether
after a time there would be a certain element of staleness for
CRMs. I think the expression the Chairman used in December 1998
was that there might be "a culture of disbelief" if
you are working on cases and only 1:30, or something like that,
eventually ends up with a conviction quashed; maybe there would
be some tiredness. Towards the back of the memorandum, I have
given you my view of how I set up the Commission, how it was designed.
My view of it then was that it was a development opportunity and
not a career. It would always be a fairly small organisation.
With growth of experience, and perhaps fewer people, there would
be no internal prospects of promotion; you would probably move
up the learning curve in the first two or three years. Therefore,
although it would be advantageous to the Commission to have an
extra couple of years of output, it probably would not be advantageous
to the individual to stay there for a long time. What we were
looking for were mainly young ambitious people"young"
in this context meaning 25-35, although our range is something
like 24-59 in age; with a few ex-policemen at the top end who
have retired. We look for people who would be comfortable with
a three-year contract renewable oncein other words, a time
horizon of about six yearstwo or three years to learn the
job, a couple to consolidate and then move to some exciting and
more remunerative occupation elsewhere. The higher the salaries
we set the more we are liable to retain people. The Employment
Relations Act of 1999 has come along and we cannot terminate contracts
after three years, or (if they are renewed) after six years, without
risking a tribunal and the various legal remedies that people
have if they have been removed from their jobs. That was not known
at the time I set it up, and everybody does have a three-year
contract renewable once but they may stay if they wish. That is
one of the reasons why we did not go to 60 for the Case Review
Managers, because you have to get back down again to 30. Going
to 60, when you want to get to 30, will get rid of the accumulation
in about two years; 50 will remove it in three. My preference
was that we would stick to the 50, and then I would have a manageable
task with turnover, even if people did not want to leave. There
were rather complex calculations put into a very simple graph
of the rundown in the very last section of the memorandum which
tell you we will just about get there, whatever happens.
19. Is that an advantage of having the old regime
you have got, compared to what you envisaged in the first place?
(Sir Frederick Crawford) I do not think so, personally,
but that is not a view that is shared by all of the Commission.
I believe that what we want are people who are very enthusiastic
but not risk developing a culture of disbelief, or any form of
tiredness or staleness, after just sifting mountains of dross
to get a few nuggets now and again. Of course, there is the point
that we are the biggest source for the outside world of people
who have been trained and educated in the business of reviewing
miscarriages of justice. There is nowhere else that covered 1,200
cases in the last year. We are a source for the rest of the Criminal
1 See page 9 of memorandum. Back
See page 12 of memorandum. Back
See page 5 of memorandum. Back