The UK’s first criminal appeals specialist charity law firm is launched today, as defence lawyers take action to protest the legal aid cuts. The Centre for Criminal Appeals combines charitable fundraising with legal aid to represented alleged victims of miscarriages of justice. ‘With mounting pressures on firms causing them to no longer take on legally aided criminal appeals, an under-resourced CCRC that now takes at least 72 weeks to process an application, and our court and prison systems bursting at the seams, creative solutions are urgently needed,’ the CCA says.
According to the CCA, less than a third of applicants to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) have a lawyer however those with lawyers are ‘twice as likely to succeed’. The group adds that, in light of today’s second 8.75% cut on fees, CCA will jointoday’s boycott of legal aid cases covered by a representation order alongside many defence firms and barristers.
The CCA’s funding model enables it to supplement legal aid with charitable donations and fundraising to enable it to conduct proper investigations, representation and support to innocent prisoners. The group also hopes that its cases will ‘highlight the necessary strategic changes to the criminal justice system’.
‘Innocent people are trapped for years as they struggle to negotiate a complex legal system from prison,’ says Sophie Walker, chief executive of the CCA. ‘We are hoping to blaze a trail for legal service provision that others can follow to ensure the most disenfranchised in our society can find the help they need.’
‘When I came back from working on death row cases in the States to set up the CCA, I had no idea that the situation here would deteriorate to such an extent. Criminal justice in the UK is in severely under threat and we need to do whatever we can to address this, for the sake not only of the whole justice system, but for British society too.’
Emily Bolton, founder of the CCA