‘Monday’ Message 05.11.19
Caroline Goodwin QC
LUNATICS ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM:
An oft-used phrase to denote a complete shambles.
Just how many outrages do there need to be before anyone sits up and listens?
What actually needs to go wrong before those in charge respond?
The continual squeeze on resources, combined with an utter lack of care as to the consequences, is simply destroying the Crown Court system.
It is a crisis and no one is reacting.
Forget the short-lived euphoria of the first faltering step on the road to what may in time resemble a living wage – because there are no courtrooms. It is nothing short of a national disgrace.
The CBA is determined to keep this issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I simply do not want to hear the use of “parliamentary purdah” to allow those in charge to run away from their responsibilities. This is a very different situation.
A NATIONAL DISGRACE:
The judiciary is hamstrung because it is having to select custody cases over non-custody cases; barristers are treated as – well, pause there: no one cares, actually, if a member of the bar sits around all day waiting to be told “your case has come out of the list because there is no court”. What other profession has to put up with this? Can you imagine what would happen if this were the NHS?
It is, I repeat, a national disgrace.
TWO DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY – THE SAME PROBLEM:
I am using two different court settings this week at different ends of the country.
Once you have read them, ask yourself this: just what is being achieved?
There is a complete disregard for witnesses; no one gives a damn. The system is being strangled.
A premier court – shambles
Attempted murder: R v Murrell, listed as a fixture on 29th October. On 22nd October, notification received: case will be listed to break fixture on 23rd October. Court cannot hear it. No explanation given as to why not.
Case sent off to Snaresbrook on 4th December. The outrages associated with this are:
- Defendant in custody; no prospect of bail.
- Witnesses’ availability never enquired after.
- Defence counsel unavailable.
WHO CARES? CERTAINLY NOT HMCTS:
Teesside Crown Court: 244 miles north
First tier court. Another shambles.
Locally described as “falling apart”. In plain English, an utter lack of judges.
In October, 14 trials (source: studying listing at Teesside) have been adjourned due to lack of court time and the majority have then been re-listed well into 2020.
One barrister, angry and upset, writes:
1. PTPH– Sexual offence involving 10-year-old complainant at the time of the offence.
Case appears at court, complainant now aged 11 years, due to the obligatory 12-month investigation delay. (More of that in next week’s MM.) First available fixture date for a 5-day trial: 3rd August 2020, by which time the complainant will be 12!
2.Week commencing 21st October:
Trial – Sexual allegation involving 13-year-old complainant with significant learning difficulties. Matter listed for trial on 21st October. The only available judge can’t sit for the length of the trial so case is re-listed for trial the following day at Newcastle. The complainant becomes particularly distressed due to the delay and unfamiliar venue, as the court visit was at Teesside not Newcastle.
Further, two other floaters are adjourned that day.
3. Week commencing 28th October:
Trial – Sexual allegation involving two complainants.
Moved the Friday before the trial to Durham, due to lack of a judge at Teesside despite this being a fixture. This, as it transpires, is fortunate as they were planning on sending the case to Grimsby, but at the last minute Durham’s listed case is taken out and so it does finally go to Durham.
4. Week commencing 4th November: – Two trials listed as floaters:
Robbery involving 13-year-old complainant and a domestic violence case.
Our correspondent writes:
“The week ahead looks bleak. Teesside has three judges sitting: HHJ Crowson is dealing with a conspiracy which will run until the end of term. HHJ Armstrong due to start a 5-6 week conspiracy and HHJ Ashurst is still dealing with a murder. No chance of either case finding a home so more distress, delay and cost.”
Further, a so-called ‘fixed trial’, involving an allegation of assault by penetration of a 14-year-old, is transferred at short notice to Newcastle.
For those who do not know, Teesside is not merely a three-court centre. Court rooms were lying empty throughout all of this, and indeed do now as I write. Just why is Teesside not deserving of having more judges? Why are complainants, witnesses and staff being treated in this way? Again, I wish to make it utterly clear. This is not the making of listing officers, it is the intransigence of those in charge. Does the title of this week’s message seem apposite?
I also remind those who read this message that in the local area it is reported that there are over 1500 cases presently released under investigation. No problem there in the future then!
A little poison in your ear to those who refuse to recognise the reality. In January and February 2020, in Teesside, there are some big trials coming, so perhaps you may want to seek some help by employing a Recorder – or two or three.
For those who need to know, I have the T-numbers for the indictments and the names of the cases. We are all grateful to counsel who has taken the time to send this appalling litany of disasters into the CBA.
I can say the following with feeling: in summary, Teesside Crown Court, like other Crown Courts, is broken, it is harming victims and it is impacting on careers at the bar. The Judges are unhappy and tired as the workload is simply too much.
Is this what we want?
Further, we have had reported to us the fact that in some courts, the judiciary feel unable to give time markings to cases, just so that – heaven forbid – there should be a break in proceedings.
If this is happening to you, write in please to the email link below.
SO pause and ask yourselves that question I asked you to consider at the beginning:
Just what is being achieved?
Thought of an answer?
HERE IS A SOLUTION?
If you want law and order – invest.
If you want to keep banging the drum about law and order being important – invest.
If you want to improve the quality of justice – invest.
If you want to demonstrate, in real terms, commitment to the faltering criminal justice system – invest.
I am seeing the Lord Chancellor this week and as well as fees, I shall raise the above.
That neatly brings me to fees. We all owe a huge debt to the collaborative effort lead by Chris Henley QC. He guided and brought together a real change for us. We are all so appreciative and the negotiations are still on going.
More updates next week on the MOJ position.
BACK TO THE BAR GUIDE:
FILM OF THE WEEK:
The Killing Fields
Onwards and upwardsView more news