The Commission has been asked by the Government to examine the need for reforms to the appeals system, to ensure that the courts have the right powers to enable the effective, efficient and appropriate resolution of appeals. The comprehensive review, which will include a public consultation, follows calls from several leading bodies, including the Justice Select Committee and Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice, for improvements to the law on appeals to be considered.
The new project will consider the need for reform, with particular focus on identifying any inconsistencies, uncertainties and gaps in the law that may be hindering the ability of the appeals system to function as effectively and fairly as possible.
As part of the new review, areas that will be considered by the Law Commission include:
- The powers of the Court of Appeal – the senior court that hears appeals in England and Wales – including its power to order a re-trial of a case or substitute a conviction for another offence.
- Whether there is evidence that the “safety test” – the test used to grant an appeal against a conviction on the grounds that it is “unsafe” (for example, because of a major error in the trial) – may make it difficult to correct any miscarriages of justice.
- The test used by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – the independent body responsible for investigating potential miscarriages of justice – that governs when it can refer a case back to the Court of Appeal for further consideration.
- The Attorney General’s powers to refer a case to the Court of Appeal because the sentence is “unduly lenient”.
- The Crown Court’s sentencing powers for a new trial that is the result of an appeal.
- Laws governing the retention and disclosure of evidence for a case, including after conviction, and retention and access to records of proceedings.