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Miscarriages of Justice

It is recognised that an individual can suffer a Miscarriage of Justice as a result of a wrongful conviction or charge.

Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC)

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in April 1999. The Commission is funded by the Law Reform Division in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh and is accountable to the Scottish Parliament for those public funds.

The Commission reviews criminal cases independently of Parliament, Government and the Judiciary and can refer a case back to the High Court for appeal. You can apply to the Commission if you have been convicted of a crime in a Scottish court and you believe that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in respect of that conviction, or in relation to the sentence imposed. The Commission will normally only accept cases where the normal appeals procedure has already been used.

The Royal Prerogative of Mercy

The Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) can be used to pardon or remit punishment in exceptional cases in which the due process of the law has produced a result that clearly involves an unjust conviction or punishment for which that process has no remedy. It is exercised in Scotland by The Queen on the advice of the First Minister.

There are no "rules" on the RPM in the sense of a series of guidelines. Each case is looked at on its own merits, though against the background of precedent and convention as to the use of the RPM. The RPM may be exercised notwithstanding the fact that a conviction has been upheld on appeal.

While the process of referral to the High Court by the SCCRC has largely superseded the RPM, it remains in place. In practice while there have been applications made from time to time, no cases have been referred since 1980.

Use of the RPM is regarded now as very much a final safeguard where injustice cannot be corrected by other means. Wherever possible, recourse to court-based remedies is seen to be the more appropriate procedure. The Law Reform Division remains responsible for advising Ministers on the exercise of the RPM.

Any individual (or members of their family if deceased) who believe they have been wrongly convicted or charged in Scotland and as a result suffered a miscarriage of justice, may apply to the Scottish Ministers for compensation.

Payment of compensation

There are currently two schemes in operation for the payment of compensation to those who meet the eligibility criteria - the Statutory Scheme and the Ex Gratia Scheme.

Find out more details of the Compensation Schemes.