Monday Message 13.01.20
Caroline Goodwin QC
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF LIES, LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS:
Prepare yourselves, there are going to be some numbers.
Statistics are supposedly there to make things easier to understand, but they are misleading and can be manipulated. Just before Christmas we saw the release of the latest set of statistics where HMCTS was applauding the fact that court statistics were said to demonstrate a reduction in waiting times. You can call it timeliness, you can say this is the mean or the median, you can seek to put whatever gloss you want on it but frankly it is a game of smoke and mirrors and does not represent what is happening on the ground.
Swift fair and effective justice which we all want has become a widget. A device.
The statistics have no bearing whatsoever on the practical impact. Mean and median are just statistical tags to gloss over the lack of regard that is had to the practical effect and impact of the nonsensical cuts. The deckchairs are littering the deck. They are a tripping hazard.
Look at the various stages of a case and ask if it is acceptable? Ignore statistics and the glad handing. In a nutshell is this acceptable? And of course, don’t forget the fact that in differing areas the figures are literally off the scale in comparison to the much beloved mean and median.
On average, from offence to completion Crown Court criminal cases took 535 days in 2019 Criminal court statistics quarterly: January to March 2019….so they say.
Let us briefly look at the statistical background, but keep asking IS THIS ACCEPTABLE?
- Offence to charge has become an utter travesty of justice with the use of RUI and the use of a postal summons
In 2019, the mean number of days in Quarter 1 from offence to charge was 323 days worked against 15,895 defendants who had their cases completed. In 2015 that same comparative figure was 285 days worked against 24,656 defendants. It is incredible to think that we are less efficient when we have fewer defendants going through the system!
Once at the Crown Court Cases times are statistically broken down to:
- sending to main hearing
- main hearing to completion
- offence to completion
OFFENCE TO COMPLETION DAYS – LESS IS MORE!
I always thought “less is more” was a phrase confined to style advice, clearly not.
A simple overview shows that staggeringly even with significantly fewer defendants in the system, an analysis of the data as regards commission of offence to completion times in the Crown Court, has risen. The criminal justice system is less efficient. Completion days as against the numbers of defendants have risen. Look at the reduced number of defendants in the quarters and ask why is this taking longer?
- 2015 first quarter “Q1” with 24,656 defendants, offence to completion time 486 days
- 2016 Q1 with 22,523 defendants, OTC 498 days
- 2017 Q1 with 21,134 defendants 574 days
2018, here is the full set of figures
- Q1 with 18,526 defendants 561 days
- Q2 with 17,764 defendants 584 days
- Q3 with 17,869 defendants 547 days
- Q4 with 17,438 defendants 526 days
- Q1 with 15,985 defendants 535 days
- Q2 with 15,089 defendants 525 days
- Q3 no real statistics available due to temporary suspension
Is the Crown Court more or less efficient?
Why has time increased in the criminal justice system if there are fewer defendants in the Crown court system? How much longer do complainants have to wait?
What about waiting times as a specific topic ? Have waiting times in fact really gone down in the Crown Court when the numbers are so much lower?
Court sitting days have been cut by almost 15 per cent, from 97,400 in 2018-19 to 82,300 in 2019-20, and no attempt is being made to reduce the backlog of cases already in the system.
Surely with fewer defendants there should be no such thing as waiting time?
Waiting time should have been dramatically reduced and there should be no fear about increased backlogs.
We have to ask how does a system serve the public if there is allowed to be a backlog?
ON THE GROUND:
The fact is we know we cannot find a court to hear our cases. Bradford today Monday 13th January 2020 is sitting 4 out of its 8 criminal courts. Why are cases being listed so far away in time?
Wood Green which has also taken on a deal of Blackfriars work and is not sitting its full compliment of criminal courts, is listing non custody cases in December 2020. Generally speaking, cases with multiple defendant’s are being listed in 2021 up and down the country.
Why is this even seen as acceptable?
There does not need to be a radical policy developed here. The answer is simple. Open the courts. Increase sitting days. Serve the public.
A brief update. We have had a meeting with the MOJ, the first of the New Year and we are in intense discussion as to how to ensure that the bar at this stage of the overall review is remunerated for the three accelerated asks. It is imperative that we get fair and proper payment for work on unused material, for cracks and for high PPE cases. I will keep you updated on this. We are on a tight schedule given the break, but the CBA is driving it forward together with the Bar Council and Circuit Leaders.
Re CPS: We are meeting the CPS next week to kick-start our 2020 CPS fee review. We will then be holding open forums to hear prosecutors’ concerns, which will enable us to formulate policies and submissions for this year’s comprehensive spending review. Watch this space.
WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP:
May I draw to your attention a pool of scholarship funding that is currently available to women working in the legal sector to assist participation in a leadership development program.
Funding of up to £2,500 for legal sector women available
Women & Leadership International is administering a national initiative to support the development of female leaders across the UK’s legal sector.
The campaign is providing women with grants of up to £2,500 to enable participation in one of three leadership development programs: Leading Edge (for junior and aspiring leaders and managers), Executive Ready (for mid-level leaders and managers) and the Advanced Leadership Program (for senior and executive level women).
FILM OF THE WEEK:
Thank You to Deborah Smithies 11KBW who has the following to recommend:
THE BIG LEBOWSKI
A Coen brothers special. The Dude lives on!!
Send in your recommendations please.
Onwards and upwards