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CBA Monday Message 21.01.19

Chair’s Update:
Chris Henley QC



CBA on tour:

Caroline Goodwin QC and I will be in Newcastle tomorrow as we continue to hold meetings around the country to discuss the crisis in the Criminal Justice System generally, and fees for Crown Court advocacy in particular.

The drumbeat from those of you who prosecute continues to crescendo. The anger felt about the new structure of defence advocacy fees is being replicated by prosecutors who are paid less in many instances than they were 20 years ago. I receive e-mails everyday from you reporting derisory fees for serious work on both sides of the profession.  By way of reminder, the details of these meetings are here; please confirm your attendance with the CBA administrator.

The CJS has been deliberately starved of resources for years. We know it, we feel it. But this is not a purely selfish cry for us to be paid properly. The long-term neglect impacts everywhere, whether in prisons, facilities at court for jurors and witnesses, judicial morale, the disintegration of probation services, police numbers, CPS capacity or advocacy fees.

Hard data underscores the decline. In 2014/15 the CPS prosecuted 100,865 cases in the Crown Court, in 2017/18 this figure had fallen to 80,090 cases; a 20% reduction in 3 years.

The 2014/15 figure itself was part of a declining trend. Mainstream victims of crime have never received lower political priority. Increasing numbers of offenders will not see the inside of a courtroom. Never has less money been spent on the CPS, and yet still the budget falls.

HMCTS Reform Programme:

Against this background a confidential Independent Review on the HMCTS Reform Programme, prepared for the then Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, makes fascinating reading. Whilst on the one hand we have a system falling apart, where the basics don’t work (current CJSM meltdown etc), with too few Judges available even to deal with reducing volumes of cases, on the other we have an almost Alice in Wonderland scale reform programme which the report’s authors, The Boston Consulting Group, describe as the most ambitious ever undertaken in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world:

In combination, the breadth of ambition of the HMCTS reform plan is unmatched anywhere in the world…no other system has attempted a reform programme that is so broad in terms of widespread adoption of digitalisation, introduction of structural changes in court personnel, and rationalisation of estate and workforce. Moreover, no other system undertaking reforms is of a size comparable to HMCTS’s jurisdictions’.

Elsewhere its findings include the ‘Reforms are framed around efficiency..not policy or broader social benefits’, and ‘We think it unlikely that all the benefits that are anticipated can be delivered within the timeframe’. The detailed analysis from other jurisdictions, which have attempted more limited reforms and within much longer timescales, shows ‘a consistent theme’ that ‘delivering such technology-based changes, in addition to process and culture changes in courts is difficult and typically takes much longer than anticipated’.

This report was only made public following an FOI request. Thank you to Transform Justice for bringing it to wider attention. You can read the full report here.

Howard League Panel Discussion: Sentencing Principles for Young Adults:

Committed professionals and charities continue to do their very best to make our system more humane and effective, giving their time freely and generously in many different ways.

The CBA, the Bar Council and the Inns promote and provide training and events throughout the year. The next such event is organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform – ‘Sentencing principles for young adults’. On Wednesday 30th January 2019 at Doughty Street Chambers an expert panel, including Mrs Justice McGowan, academics and practitioners will discuss this profoundly important issue and the developing body of work underpinning the the Howard League’ campaign. Further information and to book your ticket.

Section 41: Criminal Law Review article by Professor Laura Hoyano:

Professor Laura Hoyano was commissioned by the CBA to undertake expert and comprehensive research into the operation of section 41. Professor Hoyano’s report was distributed to CBA members via e-mail on 29th November. We would like to bring to your attention Professor Hoyano’s complementary article in the current edition of the Criminal Law Review ‘Cross-examination of sexual assault complainants on previous sexual behaviour: views from the barristers’ row’, which can be accessed via Westlaw. We hope to convene a panel discussion to discuss and debate these issues very soon.

Listing roundtable:

Emma Fenn, the CBA Secretary, is attending a listing roundtable event at the MoJ tomorrow. Emma will be taking your concerns about the negative impact of warned lists, time markings, flexibility from list officers, and giving counsel’s availability a much higher priority, to the meeting.

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