The new independent body tasked with looking at suspected wrongful convictions will be headed by Colin Carruthers QC.

As chief commissioner of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Carruthers will be assisted by an establishment advisory group that will include legal heavyweight Nigel Hampton QC and former detective Tim McKinnel, who successfully fought for compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned Teina Pora.

The commission was part of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition deal, and the appointments were announced today by Justice Minister Andrew Little and New Zealand First justice spokesman Darroch Ball.

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The commission will review criminal convictions and sentences where there is a claimed miscarriage of justice, replacing the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

It will not determine guilt or innocence, but can refer cases back to the Court of Appeal.

Little has previously echoed the research of recently deceased judge Sir Thomas Thorp, who said there may be as many as 20 innocent people in prison at any one time.

Carruthers, who is married to former Act MP Deborah Coddington, will take the lead position for an 18-month term and will play a critical role in establishing the commission.

"Mr Carruthers brings a significant amount of mana and credibility to the role, having practised as a senior barrister in both defence and prosecution roles," Little said in a statement.

Carruthers has represented the Crown in high-profile commercial cases, including the cases against Lombard Finance, Nathans Finance and South Canterbury Finance.

He also assisted commissioner Sir Ronald Davison during the Winebox inquiry into allegations of fraud and incompetence at the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue.

His record, though not his legal credentials, is blighted by a drink-driving conviction in 2013, for which he was fined $800 and lost his licence for six months.


The commission will be based in Hamilton, Little said.

"It is important the CCRC is independent from the big bureaucratic and judicial centres, Auckland and Wellington."

Hampton is an internationally renown criminal defence lawyer who made submissions to the parliamentary select committee considering how the commission should work.

Mckinnel was instrumental in winning justice for Pora, who was paid $3.5 million in compensation for being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 20 years.

Other than Hampton and Mckinnel, the members of the estalishment advisory group are:

• Tracey McIntosh, Professor of Indigenous Studies and co-head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa (School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies) at the University of Auckland

• Elisabeth McDonald, Professor of Criminal Law, Evidence and Procedure at the University of Canterbury

• Dr Anna Sandiford, senior forensic science consultant and director of The Forensic Group

• Dr Tamasailau Suaalii-Sauni, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Auckland

The CCRC will begin receiving applications for review of convictions and sentences when it becomes operational on July 1.

Applications are currently open for the roles of Deputy Commissioner and between one and five Commissioners.