CBA Monday Message – 31.07.17
Francis FitzGibbon QC
Irrespective of the evaluation to be carried out on behalf of HMCTS, we must get as much information as possible from our members about their experience of the pilot scheme, so that we can assess its impact. That applies whether you accept, decline or return instructions for cases in the pilot courts. It is vital to have a record of what this scheme means for you and your cases.
Nothing new to report. You may have noticed, however, that another of Mr Grayling’s schemes has run into trouble – the division of the Probation Service between the state for high-risk cases and 21 private contractors for the rest. The system has, according to the new Secretary of State, ‘encountered unforeseen challenges’. (Those would be different from the ones that his predecessors were told about.) MOJ have apparently found significant extra money to bail out several of the private companies that have got into difficulties.
It would be most unfortunate if the foreseeable challenges posed by the changes to AGFS went unmet for lack of adequate funding. That would require a future bail-out which would undoubtedly cost more than investing wisely at the start. Long-term investments in human capital are at least as important as buildings and equipment.
The CBA does not gloat, but we rejoice in the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down yet another of Mr Grayling’s misbegotten policies, the imposition of unaffordable fees in the Employment Tribunal. Everyone should read the classic judgment by Lord Reed. Among its treasures is this passage:
…Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by Parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. That role includes ensuring that the executive branch of government carries out its functions in accordance with the law. In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them. Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade. That is why the courts do not merely provide a public service like any other.
EVIDENCE FROM BODY WORN VIDEO (BWV)
Until a ‘Common Platform’ method emerges for the sharing of BWV evidence, police forces are using different systems. The Metropolitan Police use a secure cloud-based system, evidence.com. The prosecution will upload the video to evidence.com and a link to it will either be contained in the IDPC or on the DCS. Clicking on the link will take the defence to the evidence.com website: if it is your first time you are asked to register. After registering the video which you were invited to share by the link should be available.
This letter from the CPS has more details.
The Law Commission has published its proposals for a Sentencing Code, which will consolidate all sentencing rules and procedures into a single statute. The aim is to make a ‘clean sweep’ of the jungle of laws that one judge has called a disgrace, and a former Lord Chief Justice found them ‘hell’ to make sense of. The proposals are the fruit of years of work by Professor Ormerod and his team. We hope that Parliamentary time will be found for their enactment into law.
There has been a good deal of ignorant talk over the weekend of soft judges passing unduly lenient sentences. Set that against the findings in a 2012 study that in 36% of sentence appeals the sentence was unlawful – not too long or too short, but just not one that the judge had power to pass.
The case for reform is unanswerable.
FORTHCOMING CHANGES TO THE DCS
HMCTS have announced the following changes to the Digital Case System:
- Notifications will be automatically sort by case name. Cases are shown in alphabetical order.
- You will have the ability to delete all notifications for a case, or all notifications for a section within a case.
- There will be the ability to shrink or expand the list of notifications.
- The bell will show number of cases that have notifications, rather than total number of notifications by document.
- Notifications will automatically delete after 3 weeks.