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Criminal Cases Review Commission

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Criminal Cases Review Commission plans to take to reduce its level of case accumulation; and how the Commission will monitor the effectiveness of those steps. (253149)

The Criminal Cases Review Commission expects to bring about further improvements in the number of applicants awaiting review and the time taken to review their cases by refining casework processes as part of an ongoing project.

Since that project started three years ago, the number of cases waiting for review by the Commission and the average waiting time of each case has fallen significantly. For instance, in March 2005 there were 360 cases awaiting review. In December 2008—the last full month for which figures are available—there were 90.

Between September 2005 and December 2008, the time that applicants in custody with complex cases had to wait for the review of their cases to begin fell from 20 months to six months.

Casework trends are analysed and steps to bring about improvements are discussed in various forums including weekly meetings of the senior management team and monthly meetings of the full Commission. All non-confidential casework policies can be seen on the publications section of the Commission's website at

www.ccrc.gov.uk

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how the Criminal Cases Review Commission measures the (a) effectiveness, (b) efficiency and (c) economy of its policies. (253150)

The Commission's policies all feed into the performance of its core function—reviewing alleged miscarriages of justice. The effectiveness and efficiency is assessed through the performance of the Commission.

The Commission uses a set of eight key performance indicators to help it monitor and manage performance. The indicators help the Commission measure waiting times, waiting lists and time taken to reach certain key stages in the life of each case such as time to allocation and time to completion. The Commission sets targets in each of these areas and measures its performance against those targets. Targets and performance are reviewed regularly by the Commission and the senior management team. Performance across most KPIs has improved substantially over the last two years.

Commission policies are regularly reviewed with input from Commissioners and staff and revised as necessary.

The KPIs are developed by managers and Commissioners and approved by the Commission. They appear in the CCRC business plan and are reported on annually in the annual report—both documents are available on the Commission's website at

www.ccrc.gov.uk.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what procedures apply to the (a) recruitment, (b) training and (c) assessment of the welfare of the Criminal Cases Review Commission's expert staff. (253151)

The Commission's Recruitment and Equal Opportunities policies seek to ensure that all the Commission's recruitment activity is fair and open.

The Commission provides in-house training for staff and Commissioners to share knowledge and expertise and promote good practice. The Commission also supports external training for staff in line with the aims of the organisation.

The Commission takes seriously the welfare of all its staff. Human Resources staff and line managers are responsible for supporting staff dealing with various day-to-day welfare issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Criminal Cases Review Commission has taken to increase the public's understanding of its role. (253152)

The Commission issues a press release about every referral it makes to the appeal courts. The organisation, and its chair in particular, seek appropriate opportunities to engage with local and national media about the work of the Commission, miscarriages of justice in general and about individual cases as far as possible.

Commissioners and Commission staff give regular presentations about the Commission and its work at universities, law clinics and at other events and venues.

The Commission tends to focus on specific sections of the public likely to have an interest in its work and on reaching those who may have legitimate reason to make an application to the Commission for review of an alleged miscarriage of justice. For instance, the Commission holds stakeholder events for groups and individuals interested in the issues and runs an annual programme of visits to prisons of all kinds to increase informed awareness of the Commission among prisoners and prison staff. The Commission advertises in media directed at the prison population and is developing ways of feeding information and material into the training of prison officers providing legal advice to prisoners.