Memorandum submitted by the Public and
Commercial Services Union
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union
(PCS) is the largest trade union within the civil service. It
represents over 305,000 members, including around 100 staff in
the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body
which reviews and investigates alleged miscarriages of justice
in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
2. The CCRC is the independent body which
reviews and investigates alleged miscarriages of justice in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission has seen significant
cuts to its budget over the last two years, a real terms reduction
of some £300,000 year on year and equating to a 10% cut in
case review managers. It currently faces a threat of further staff
cuts which PCS believes are wholly unneccessary and will have
a significant impact on its ability to efficiently review cases.
3. The CCRC was established in 1997 following
a string of high profile miscarriages of justice which shook public
confidence in the criminal justice system. Since its inception
it has reviewed some of the most prominent cases, including solicitor
Sally Clark, wrongly convicted of murdering her two young
children, and Barry George, convicted of the murder of
Jill Dando. In both of these cases, and many others, the Commission's
enquiries revealed fresh evidence which resulted in the convictions
being overturned by the Court of Appeal.Owing to the thoroughness
with which it conducts reviews the Commission has enjoyed one
of the highest reputations amongst public bodies, repeatedly winning
praise from defence lawyers and the Court of Appeal. It has also
attracted international attention, with a number of countries
looking to replicate the Commission within their own justice systems.
Norway has already established such a commission having seen its
success in Britain.
4. PCS believes the budget cuts the CCRC
has had to bear, the threat further staff cuts, and the case backlogs
that will arise, put its excellent reputation in jeopardy.
5. The Commission has seen significant cuts
to its budget over the last two years, amounting to approximately
£100,000 year on year. Accounting for inflation, this equates
to a real terms reduction of approximately £300,000 year
on year. Given that the Commission's annual budget runs at around
just £7 million, it has been unable to meet those cuts without
cutting core staff.
6. It has now announced a further cut of
six (15%) caseworkers (including two interns), one of which will
be compulsory. We also understand that a further redundancy will
be announced in the next few weeks. These cuts are being made
at the same time as the Commission has managed to secure an extra
£50K to fund a 42% pay increase to its new Chair on appointment.
Additionally, the commissioners have agreed to create a new CEO
post, to be advertised at around £80-90k. All this whilst
four case workers (10%) are about to lose their jobs.
7. PCS members working in the CCRC report
that as a result of the cuts which have been, and will continue
to be, imposed, the last two years will have seen a 20% reduction
in the Commission's case working staffthe very people that
review cases and uncover miscarriages of justice. This situation
will have a significant and negative impact on the Commission's
ability to efficiently review cases. We also believe that the
cuts are remarkably short sighted, given that any additional time
a wrongly convicted person remains in prison increases the level
of government compensation they may be entitled to, and is therefore
false economy. It is not possible for the Commission to reduce
its casework resources to this extent without it leading to longer
waiting times before cases are reviewed.
8. In the outgoing Chairman's Foreward of
the 2008 Annual Report, Graham Zellick stated that last year's
cuts of 10% in the case review manager posts is already compromising
the improvements made in reducing the waiting times. Any further
cuts would damage the Commission's quality and efficiency. At
the same time, the new incoming chairman has talked of staff making
more referrals to the Appeal court, taking a new "bolder"
9. The annual budget for the Ministry of
Justice is around £8 billion. Of that the Commission accounts
for just £7 million. This is a tiny proportion, yet the Commission
performs a vital function in helping to maintain public confidence
in the criminal Justice system, and ensuring that when mistakes
happen or things go wrong they are put right.
10. We ask MPs to ask questions regarding:
In the last CCRC Annual Report, the
Chairman stated that 10% of caseworker posts have been cut and
any further cuts would damage the equality and efficiency of the
Commission. The Commission has now announced a further cut of
six (15%) caseworkers (including two interns). How can this not
now lead to a further backlog in casework?
With further efficiency cuts in the
Commission, how does the new Chair intend to take a "bolder"
approach by asking staff to go as far as they can to make more
referrals to the Appeal Court?
Whilst we understand that budgetary
constraints have led to these cuts, the Commission has recently
managed to secure an extra £50K to fund a 42% pay increase
to the new Chair of the Commission on appointment. In addition
to this, a new post of CEO has also been announced, which will
cost the Commission a further £80-90K. How can this expenditure
be justified against the cutbacks?
The Commission's insistance on making
compulsory redundancies without seeking volunteers, in the caseworker
post, has led to anger amongst staff whose dedication and goodwill
has been crucial in reducing the backlog in casework. This will
now most likely lead to industrial action in the CCRC. Will this
not damage all the good work done by the Commission so far?
Does the Commission understand the
implications of making this one compulsory redundancy when the
rest of the civil service has managed 80,000 cuts without resorting
to this action? Has the Commission has been too intransigent?
If further cuts in staffing levels
lead to ever increasing backlogs, what implications will this
have for the criminal justice system?