New body keeps police in charge
Commission set to scrutinise miscarriages of justice, reports Patricia Wynn Davies
But even this much-needed reform has attracted its share of advance criticism because the new body will not mean an end to the police investigating themselves. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, decided that the commission should not have its own, independent, investigating officers. Instead, it will use outside police forces for its inquiries, including those involving investigations of alleged malpractice by other forces.
The commission will have the right to supervise police inquiries if this is "desirable in the public interest" - but is under no duty to do so. The nearest equivalent body is the Police Complaints Authority, which has failed to garner widespread confidence that it is sufficiently at arm's length from the police.
Some critics have warned that these failings risk the credibility of the entire exercise.
There is little doubt, however, that the new body is an improvement on the current system where the Home Secretary decides which cases to refer back to the Court of Appeal, aided by an understaffed, ill-qualified and insufficiently-resourced C3.
The commission will not, for example, be restricted to scrutinising cases involving "fresh evidence", but will be able to look at cases where potentially crucial information has been overlooked or misunderstood, or where the accused was the victim of bad legal advice.
A further novel feature will be the body's power to consider cases from Northern Ireland, and those originally heard in magistrates' courts.
A flood of applications is expected in the commission's first year - possibly up to 1,600, plus several hundred already under Home Office consideration - many of which would have been rejected under the old system.
Mr Howard rejected suggestions that the commission's chairman should not be a judge but has none the less appointed a non-judicial figure, Sir Frederick Crawford, vice-chancellor of Aston University.
Although no building has yet been found to house the new body, the selection of at least 10 other commissioners is currently under way, by a panel comprising Sir Frederick, a Home Office official and two independent members.
One-third of the commissioners will have to be legally qualified and the other two-thirds must have knowledge and experience of the criminal justice system.
In addition, about 60 permanent staff are to be recruited, and in marked contrast to the current set-up at C3, a third of them must be lawyers. There are concerns that some existing C3 staff will be appointed, which will raise the inevitable accusation that practices and attitudes of the past will be perpetuated.
Jeremy Paxman reveals he has heard senior Tories calling activists 'swivel-eyed loons'
Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
Strewth mate. Aussies wave goodbye to Britain as it becomes too pricey to stay
X marks the spot: The find that could rewrite Australian history
'There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, bedrooms, classrooms': President Barack Obama says America is praying for Oklahoma in wake of tornado that claimed 91 lives
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 4 Why Arsène Wenger must spend to put icing on the cake and buy likes of Stevan Jovetic for Arsenal
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£37,382-£44,607: UCL Qatar: The appointment is full-time on UCL Grade 8. The s...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Special Educational Needs (SEN) teac...
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...
£29000 - £45000 per annum + TLR and SEN allowance if applicable: Randstad Educ...