Written statement to Parliament

Review of potential miscarriages of justice

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons by Theresa May and in the House of Lords by Lord Taylor of Holbeach.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May):

When I made my statement to the House on 6 March 2014, announcing the findings of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review by Mark Ellison QC, I said that:

“In identifying the possibility that SDS secrecy may have caused miscarriages of justice, Mark Ellison recommends a further review to identify the specific cases affected. I have accepted that recommendation and Mark Ellison will lead the work, working with the CPS and reporting to the Attorney General. That will mean that proper consideration can be given to those cases and to any implications that may arise. In doing that work, Mark Ellison and the CPS will be provided with whatever access they judge necessary to relevant documentary evidence.” [Hansard, 6 March 2014, Column 1063]

Mr Ellison, the Attorney General and I have now agreed his terms of reference. Mr Ellison will continue to be supported by Alison Morgan, who was Mr Ellison’s junior counsel during the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review. The terms of reference are:

“Mark Ellison QC will co-ordinate a multi-agency review, reporting to the Attorney General, to assess the possible impact upon the safety of convictions in England and Wales where relevant undercover police activity was not properly revealed to the prosecutor and considered at the time of trial. Nothing in these terms of reference affects the statutory responsibilities of the various agencies and office-holders working with the review.

The review will initially focus on the undercover police activity of the MPS’s Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) which, whilst not an MPS resource, worked to similar objectives. The review will then assess whether its scope may need to be broadened to cover other undercover police activity.

The review will seek to ensure, by working co-operatively with the Home Office, Operation Herne (on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)), other police forces, CPS, Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and any other relevant agencies, that the following tasks are carried out:

  1. Establish the relevant document retention and destruction policies adopted within the relevant organisations
  2. Identify the extent of surviving police, prosecution and court case files
  3. Establish the nature of undercover policing undertaken and the potential for undercover police activity to have been relevant to a prosecution but unrevealed to the appropriate authority
  4. Identify, using both available records and other reasonable means, any convictions where it appears there was relevant undisclosed and unrevealed undercover police activity capable of impacting adversely on the safety of the conviction
  5. Ensure that any cases falling in 4 above, where it appears the safety of a conviction may have been adversely affected, are referred to the appropriate authority for evaluation and appropriate action
  6. Ensure that any cases falling in 4 above are reviewed to establish the rationale for non revelation and to establish the extent to which the MPS and the Home Office were aware and identify the action taken as a result
  7. Agree a protocol with the MPS (and all other police forces subsequently identified), the CPS, the CCRC and any other relevant agencies regarding the tasks that each will undertake; the availability and handling of material; and other issues as necessary.

Mark Ellison QC will aim to report the review’s findings in writing on the above to the Attorney General by 31 March 2015.”

The review has already begun its preliminary work. Where the review identifies a potential miscarriage of justice, the case will be referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for its consideration of whether the case should be referred to the appellate courts. At the conclusion of the process, the review will produce a report to the Attorney General, which he will publish. That report will not include the details of the individuals whose cases have been examined, as to do so could prejudice any subsequent appeal proceedings or retrials.