CBA Monday Message 23.10.17
Angela Rafferty QC
Listing in the Crown Court
Following last weeks message reports of bad listing practices continue to come in. In one court a case was listed for a complex and time-consuming hearing when it was known that it was very unlikely that a Judge would be available. Representations pleading for a more realistic listing were ignored. In another court, 20 cases were listed at 2pm, in yet another 30 cases were listed at 10am. Trials have been listed as floaters with no prospect at all of getting on. In one court 7 out of the 13 cases listed at 10am without time markings were put back into the afternoon because of a long sentencing hearing.
Of course it is the advocates who have to deal with the frustrated and bewildered defendants and witnesses on each side in these scenarios. The amount of waiting about by professional people and all court users when listing goes wrong is unacceptable. Many, many people will leave the courts in which this is happening with first hand knowledge of how inefficient the system can be. It cannot be doing the wellbeing of Judges any good either.
However it is our members interests we represent. Barristers with childcare issues who attend courts where listing is chaotic have absolutely no certainty of when they will be available to pick up children. Professional diaries must allow for whole days of waiting about. In the interests of balance we know that a large majority of courts have extremely efficient, effective and courteous listing practices where the work gets done without horrendous frustrations and inconvenience.
We continue to monitor this issue at this email address. We have been in touch with those who control scheduling and will be discussing our findings with those who work in listing at HMCTs. We intend to ask for action to be taken to stop bad practices. We know that listing can be difficult but basic time management should be able to sort out a lot of these problems to the benefit of everyone involved.
The Junior Bar
We will be writing to all Heads of Chambers this week seeking confirmation that all Criminal Chambers are aware of and implementing the 2008 Bar Council protocol about magistrates court fees for junior counsel.
As you will know there has been some suggestion that section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act should be amended. The CBA wishes to ensure we are at the forefront of this legal reform issue. To this end our specialist working group has prepared a survey of those members who undertake sexual offence work in the Crown court. We ask that both prosecutors and defenders complete the survey here. It will take a little time but the data we receive will be invaluable if those who do this work respond in sufficient numbers. We are in a unique position to comment on the practice and procedure in relation to this legislation. The survey will close in two weeks and we will then collate the results.
Domestic Violence Summit
It’s more than 10 years post the groundbreaking report by Baroness Corston, which highlighted that coercion by male partners and relatives is a distinct route into criminality and prison for some women.
On the 17th October 2017 the Criminal Bar Association was invited to participate in a key summit/roundtable event held by the Prison Reform Trust. Representatives attended from the judiciary, the sentencing council, the CPS, probation, survivors of abuse and academics
We have been asked to provide a paper and lecture on the effectiveness of duress in situations where women offend as a result of domestic abuse and coercion in a relationship, and whether the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 might provide a suitable model.
We at the CBA wholeheartedly support the desire for change and will develop a campaigning and educational strategy in this field, to facilitate early diversion, effective use of community sentencing and raising awareness and knowledge of the impact of domestic abuse and coercion.
Video Link Hearings
HMCTS are collecting data ‘on barriers to the use of Prison to Court Video Link (PCVL) to facilitate court hearings in all instances (save trial)’. This is to collect the views of those who defend in these hearings when reconfiguring the prison estates programme. If you have any feedback about this please use this form and send it to [email protected]
Youth Justice Update
The CBA continues to be committed to raising the profile of and standard in this important work. In November we will take part in a seminar with the BSB with other experts in this field. Our working group will start to devise a training course in the near future.
Guide to statistics for advocates
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy and the Royal Statistical Society have created a joint guide on statistics and probability for advocates to aid their understanding in the use of statistical evidence in courts and tribunals. This is to avoid misunderstandings around statistical evidence contributing to miscarriages of justice. The guide is available to download, free here.