International Perspectives on Correcting Wrongful Convictions: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission

By Griffin, Lissa | The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, May 2013 | Go to article overview

International Perspectives on Correcting Wrongful Convictions: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission


Griffin, Lissa, The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal


INTRODUCTION

Not surprisingly, the problem of wrongful convictions has become a global one.1 Of the many dimensions of the problem, one of the issues in the international discussion is the role of innocence commissions.2 In 1997, the United Kingdom created the first such commission, the U.K. Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).3 This independent body has the power to investigate and refer claims of miscarriage of justice to the U.K. Court of Appeal.4 Norway has a similar body.5 While several U.S. states have study-and-report commissions,6 the only similar, that is, direct review commission in the United States is the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.7 One commission that has received virtually no international attention is the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC),8 which was created two years after the U.K.'s CCRC.9 Like its older sister, the SCCRC is an independent body with the power to investigate and refer claims of miscarriage of justice to the domestic appellate court.10 The SCCRC is the subject of this article.

It should be said at the outset that it is not an easy task to analyze and describe the SCCRC's work in correcting wrongful convictions. Unlike its U.K. counterpart, the SCCRC works under strict statutory non-disclosure rules that keep much of its work from public view.11 It is thus impossible, for example, to review cases that are considered and investigated but not referred to the court because the SCCRC is not permitted to disclose its statement of reasons (for referral or non-referral).12 For the same reason, it is not possible to know the basis for a referral, because the statement of reasons in referral cases is also confidential.13 While the basis for the referral is sometimes discussed in the ultimate court decision on a referred case, there have in fact been very few referrals and even fewer written decisions. From its inception in 1999 to March 2013, the SCCRC had referred only 115 cases.14 Only fifty-one have resulted in written decisions.15 While this may be an appropriate number of referrals, it is a challenge to discern patterns in such a small body of cases.

For these reasons, I requested and was given permission to visit the SCCRC's office in Glasgow, Scotland. During that visit I was graciously given the opportunity to speak at length with many members of the SCCRC staff, including its Executive Director, Gerard Sinclair. The staff was extremely forthcoming and it was a fascinating visit.

Ultimately, and despite these limitations, it is possible to draw some interesting conclusions about the work of the SCCRC.16 First, the SCCRC seems willing to refer cases to the courts based on fresh evidence (what we call "newly discovered evidence"), when the Commission concludes that evidence is important and credible, even if the court ultimately disagrees and holds that it is not significant enough to require quashing the conviction. In fact, the SCCRC seems quite confident in drawing its own conclusions about the credibility and significance of fresh evidence in cases in which the court's ultimate decision reveals this to have been a fairly debatable question. The same is true of the SCCRC's willingness to refer cases demonstrating that the Crown had improperly failed to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense (what we call a Brady violation).17 Faced with a case involving serious prosecutorial non-disclosure, the SCCRC is likely to take a broad view of whether the non-disclosed evidence was important to the case, even when the court ultimately disagrees. Finally, the SCCRC takes very seriously the requirement that there be something new in the case before it can be referred;18 consistent with the Court of Criminal Appeal's scope of review, the SCCRC will not refer a case in which it is troubled by the reliability of the verdict in the absence of new evidence or a new legal ground to do so.19 This same position has led to some substantial criticism of the CCRC. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

International Perspectives on Correcting Wrongful Convictions: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.