Professor Carolyn Hoyle has been awarded a £110,338 Research Grant from The Leverhulme Trust to conduct a two-year project on 'Last Resorts: Decisions and Discretion at the Criminal Cases Review Commission'. The project will employ a part-time postdoctoral researcher, Dr Mai Sato, while covering a third of Carolyn’s teaching to allow her to engage fully in the research activities.
This project builds on an extensive pilot study Carolyn has been conducting for the past 18 months. It examines how the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) exercises its discretionary powers in identifying and investigating possible miscarriages of justice cases – from the approximately 1,000 applications a year – for rehearing by the Court of Appeal. The research adopts a mixed-method approach, analysing case files quantitatively and qualitatively, as well as conducting interviews with decision makers and observations of committee meetings to fully grasp the workings of the CCRC from a sociological perspective and to understand how discretion operates at the individual and institutional level. These findings have the potential to improve responses to the wrongly convicted by identifying variables correlated with the decision to subject an application to full review, and those factors that lead Commissioners to decide that there is fresh argument or evidence that would present a real possibility of the Court of Appeal quashing the case. The data should also improve relations between the CCRC and others who work directly with applicants – such as appeal solicitors and innocence projects – and Court of Appeal judges.