Criminal Cases Review Commission apologises to Andrew Malkinson for handling of case

<span>Andrew Malkinson after his conviction was cleared.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Andrew Malkinson after his conviction was cleared.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

The chair of the Criminal Cases Review Commission has offered an “unreserved apology” to Andrew Malkinson for its handling of his case after he spent 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

The apology from Helen Pitcher comes ahead of the publication of an independent review by Chris Henley KC of the CCRC’s handling of the case. The review of the body set up to look into potential miscarriages of justice has been completed, and is expected to be critical and to be published imminently.

Malkinson said the organisation’s failings had caused him “a world of pain” and that he felt vindicated by the apology but it was “too little too late”. He called for the justice secretary, Alex Chalk, to bring in new leadership at the CCRC.

Malkinson has repeatedly called for Pitcher to be sacked and to return her OBE because of the opportunities the body missed to secure his freedom. The Guardian revealed last year that Pitcher was in Montenegro promoting her property business while the organisation was in crisis after Malkinson’s conviction was quashed.

Pitcher said on Thursday: “Mr Henley’s report makes sobering reading, and it is clear from his findings that the commission failed Andrew Malkinson. For this, I am deeply sorry. I have written to Mr Malkinson to offer him my sincere regret and an unreserved apology on behalf of the commission.

“There may have been a belief that I have been unwilling ever to apologise to Mr Malkinson, and I want to clarify that this is not the case. For me, offering a genuine apology required a clear understanding of the circumstances in which the commission failed Mr Malkinson. We now have that.

“Nobody can ever begin to imagine the devastating impact that Mr Malkinson’s wrongful conviction has had on his life, and I can only apologise for the additional harm caused to him by our handling of his case.”

Malkinson applied to the commission asking for his case to be referred to the court of appeal, but was rejected twice. His conviction was finally overturned in July last year.

Related: ‘I started shaking’: Andrew Malkinson on being told he is a free man

Malkinson said: “I feel vindicated by this unreserved apology – but it is too little too late.

“The time for Helen Pitcher to apologise was last summer when I was exonerated. It was already crystal clear that the CCRC had completely failed me. Yet she’s held off on apologising until a report spelled this out for her in black and white. It is hard for me to see sincerity in an apology after all this time – when you are truly sorry for what you have done, you respond immediately and instinctively, it wells up in you.

“The CCRC’s failings caused me a world of pain. Even the police apologised straight away. It feels like Helen Pitcher is only apologising now because the CCRC has been found out, and the last escape hatch has now closed on them.”

The CCRC announced earlier this week that scores of people who maintain they were wrongly convicted of rape and murder will have fresh DNA testing conducted in their cases. The announcement appeared to be intended to pre-empt likely criticism in the review of Malkinson’s case.

Malkinson said: “The CCRC’s delay in apologising to me added significantly to the mental turmoil I am experiencing as I continue to fight for accountability for what was done to me.

“Last September, my lawyer wrote to Helen Pitcher directly requesting an apology. She replied saying she didn’t agree with many of our criticisms of the CCRC’s handling of my case and refused. That smacks to me of someone who is in denial and not fit to lead a body which is meant to be dedicated to rooting out failings in our justice system.

“I hope the justice secretary, Alex Chalk, will bring in new leadership at the CCRC. I am innocent and I am not the only one. Others must not be let down as I was. The CCRC should be led by people with empathy, humility, and a track record of fighting injustice.”

The Guardian revealed last year that police and prosecutors knew in 2007 that forensic testing had found a searchable male DNA profile on the victim’s vest top that did not match Malkinson’s. He spent another 13 years in prison.

The CCRC declined to order further forensic testing after the discovery, or to refer the case for appeal in 2012, with the files showing the CCRC raising concerns about costs.