Monday Message 22.06.20
Caroline Goodwin QC
JURY TRIAL AN INVIOLATE PRINCIPLE:
The principle of trial by jury is sacrosanct, there may be those who seek to force upon us imminent change. We cannot contemplate change to the jury system. The practice of jury trial is at the heart of our criminal justice system. There can be no erosion of this. We stand by that. We cannot support the suspension of the right to trial by jury. Justice would be diminished.
The use of a Judge and two magistrates dealing with triable either way offences would be a change for the worse, it would utterly transform the face of “Justice” and not in a good way. A temporary solution of this nature is just frankly shocking. It is not in our view reflective of a diverse and vibrant society. The statistics as to Judicial diversity demonstrate that there can be no competition as between a jury as opposed to a Judge and two magistrates. Consider this: only 12% of magistrates have declared themselves as BAME.
Is this really the way forward?
The principles that have underpinned our system cannot be simply thrown away because there is an issue which itself was born out of penny pinching and the mismanagement of the court sitting days.
Do not let the jewel in the Crown be ridden roughshod over.
We have seen no formal policy papers or proposals. We do not know what is realistically being considered. We do not know the extent of any if indeed what changes are contemplated for real in our working day but we have solutions on the table:
Invest in more buildings and use the court estate. Social distancing is about to change. Let us reflect on that and implement those changes before we rush to dismantle years of doing what we believe is what we have always done and that is called “doing the right thing”
Be bold and be brave. If you value justice, you value the jury system.
We want your views on this and other issues. The choice is yours, but you now know our view.
Please take the time to fill it in.
We need your views by 4pm on Friday 26th June.
IMPORTANT Q & A SESSION WITH HMCTS:
The changes we have all had to cope with have been many. There are challenges yet to come, and yet to be identified. They will affect our professional life in every way.
The CBA has been involved in a vast number of working parties nationwide addressing a myriad of issues. There are many stakeholders involved in getting the courts running at capacity. The “can do“ attitude has meant that we are further along the road to return than we might otherwise have been. The cessation of trials has presented us with enormous problems, and we are still having to address social distancing. We have seen an increase in the need for better tech, we need greater capacity as regards CVP. It is all well and good provided you can obtain access. We need to look at expanding S28 hearings; We need more buildings from which we can operate trials. Covid 19 has meant the introduction of timed and staggered hearings. The permutations are endless.
HMCTS which is responsible for the administration of criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales has played an integral part in this return to work and we have all had to acknowledge the fact, that they have done this without a full complement of staff. It has been a mammoth task and as the courts start to re-open, we can all see the work that has been undertaken and the work that still needs addressing.
Later this week HMCTS is publishing its own road map to recovery and we will all read it with interest.
As a profession, we shall have a unique opportunity, to pose questions to the Head of HMCTS, Susan Acland-Hood, who will attend together with key members of the HMCTS team to field questions; areas to consider will be increased court and estate capacity, role out of S28 hearings and magistrates court, the backlog of cases, listing of cases and other issues. Social media often has incorrect information, on it. This is your chance to ask questions direct and hear the answers.
This should be a well-attended and informative session. There will be difficult questions to be asked but we will be afforded that opportunity. We may have to do this over two sessions, but we will provide more information next week. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the roadmap to recovery.
AND FINALLY THANK YOU:
Thank you to everyone who engaged in addressing the inadvertent problem which arose with the Magistrate’s Court over the weekend. This was addressed in a meeting on Sunday 21st at 5pm. There was communication and engagement. We say a big thank you to Alyson Sprawson who facilitated this. Her effort was much appreciated.
FILM OF THE WEEK:
Stay safe, onwards and upwards