Monday Message 06.02.17
Francis FitzGibbon QC
Police & Crime Act 2017
This Act received Royal Assent on 31 January. It’s a miscellany, but members may be especially interested in provisions to reform pre-charge bail to stop people remaining on bail for lengthy periods without judicial oversight. These are due to come into force in April. Investigations such as those into Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini, which took years before they were dropped, undoubtedly put pressure on the government to act. The question, however, is whether the new arrangements will prevent such things happening again. The Act does not and could not tell the police how to carry out their investigations. They will simply use police bail less, by releasing people from bail while investigations continue. If, for example, they rely on receiving information from third parties who are slow to release it, or the evidence is particularly extensive or complicated, they will still need time over and above the 28 days on the bail clock. Meanwhile, the suspect remains in limbo as before, not knowing if they will be charged.
Other measures include ending the detention in police cells of children and young people under 18 who are experiencing a mental health crisis, amending PACE to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes, and increasing the use of live links for people in police custody.
Future Bar Training
The CBA response to the consultation paper is here. Our view is that the Bar Council/COIC proposal for a split course is likely to achieve BSB’s key aims better than any of their own plans – to make Bar training flexible, and accessible to as many people as possible by bringing down the costs, while retaining the highest possible standards for entrants to the profession. The Bar/COIC plan envisages a 2-part course: part 1 on-line, in civil and criminal procedure and evidence, followed by an exam. Those who pass the exam will enter a class-room course on practical matters such as advocacy, drafting and ethics. The cost will be significantly lower.
I hope that whatever version of the training is adopted will help to revive our withering profession.
Criminal Practice Direction
The new CPD, in force from 31 January 2017, gives detailed directions for the use of live links and telephone hearings. It should galvanise the judges and the professions to make more use of these facilities. When that happens, there will be fewer trips to Court for needless hearings, which are a bugbear. Today, in a move that will be warmly welcomed, His Honour Judge Sheridan has announced that advocates in pre-trial hearings at Aylesbury and Amersham Crown Court can appear over a live link if they make the necessary request by noon on the preceding day.
The CPD comes with an Annex, aimed more at HMCTS staff than us, on the practical arrangements, including a recommendation for the paint colour in rooms where witnesses are to give live-link evidence. On one view, this is micro-management: on another (mine, as it happens) the level of detail is an indication of the desire of the senior judiciary to make the new arrangements work as well as possible. Think of Van Halen: his contract said no brown M&Ms on tour. Van Halen didn’t care about the colour of his confectionery – he cared about whether people were reading the contract properly (which is not to say the judges don’t care about the fine details, but you get the point).
Criminal Procedure Rules Committee
I have been asked to clarify comments in the Message on 5 December. The CPR was wrongly described as an ‘ad hoc committee’. It isn’t. It consults widely, as per its statutory remit, and its members represent every group that has an interest in criminal procedure. I am pleased to report that the CBA will now be included on the list of its consultees, to support the excellent work done by the existing Bar representatives, Alison Pople QC and Nathaniel Rudolf (a former Secretary of the CBA). The Criminal Procedure Rules are a fixture, and if we can contribute to the process, so much the better.
This is a reminder that there will be a ‘Question Time’-type meeting for members to look at the reform proposals at 6pm on 15 February, at the BPP Law School in Red Lion Street 68-70 Red Lion St, London WC1R 4NY. The purpose of the meeting is to canvass views, hear and if possible meet concerns, and to give information about the proposals. It is not a cosmetic exercise. It will be really helpful if people read the documents in advance. Unfortunately, the qualifying exam for the current Recorder competition coincides with the meeting, so if you can’t come for that (or any reason) please email your concerns or questions to Aaron.
Sadly, it also clashes with what sounds like a fantastic concert in support of the Music in Prisons charity and Citizen’s Advice, given by the Labuschagne String Quartet at Southwark Crown Court at the same time. They are unlikely to perform works by Van Halen, but will be playing Messiaen’s great Quartet for the End of Time.
Trial & Error
‘Forever Trial and Error – A Different Type of Judicial Revue’ returns to the Old Bailey on 13-15 March, directed by the Bailey’s own HHJ Rook. Details here.
Lincoln’s Inn Women’s Forum
On 15 March there will be an event at Lincoln’s Inn to mark the 100th anniversary of the admission of women to the Bar. The Right Honourable Dame Janet Smith DBE, Michele O’Leary and Megan Dunmall will be the speakers.