Catalogue description Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (Runciman Commission): Records

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Details of BS 26
Reference: BS 26
Title: Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (Runciman Commission): Records

Minutes, papers and reports of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, together with research papers and evidence.

Open evidence is at BS 26/56-794.

Date: 1990-1993
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, 1991-1993

Physical description: 795 file(s)
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

From 1993 Home Office

Accruals: No further accruals expected
Publication note:

BS 26/55 was published as Cm 2263, 1993; the 22 research studies were also published by HMSO.

Unpublished finding aids:

BS 26/795 contains additional finding aids; including brief summaries of circulated evidence (EV 1-806)

Administrative / biographical background:

The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice was appointed by Royal Warrant on 21 June 1991 to examine the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in England and Wales in securing the conviction of those guilty and the acquittal of those innocent of criminal offences, having regard to the efficient use of resources, and in particular to consider whether changes were needed in:

  • the conduct of police investigations and their supervision by senior police officers, and in particular the degree of control that is exercised by those officers over the conduct of the investigation and the gathering and preparation of information;
  • the role of the prosecutor in supervising the gathering of evidence and deciding whether to proceed with a case, and the arrangements for the disclosure of material, including unused material, to the defence;
  • the role of experts in criminal proceedings, their responsibilities to the court, prosecution, and defence, and the relationship between the forensic science services and the police;
  • the arrangements for the defence of accused persons, access to legal advice, and access to expert evidence;
  • the opportunities available for an accused person to state his position on the matters charged and the extent to which the courts might draw proper inferences from primary facts, the conduct of the accused, and any failure on his part to take advantage of an opportunity to state his position;
  • the powers of the courts in directing proceedings, the possibility of their having an investigative role both before and during the trial, and the role of pre-trial reviews; the courts' duty in considering evidence, including uncorroborated confession evidence;
  • the role of the Court of Appeal in considering new evidence on appeal, including directing the investigation of allegations;
  • the arrangements for considering and investigating allegations of miscarriages of justice when appeal rights have been exhausted.

Under the chairmanship of Viscount Runciman of Doxford the commission met 44 times, received written evidence from over 600 organisations and individuals, held seven seminars and spent seven days receiving oral evidence. It commissioned 22 research studies by academic criminologists or lawyers and visited, in groups or individually, all parts of the criminal justice system.

The commission visited Scotland twice and met with members of the Scottish judiciary to learn about the workings of the Scottish criminal justice system. In order to obtain information about other countries' jurisdictions it issued a questionnaire to selected government departments and academic experts in those countries. The responses to this questionnaire were analysed and published separately (Criminal Justice Systems in Other Jurisdictions by N Osner, A Quinn & G Crown, HMSO 1993).

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