The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, November 28, 2011

One For Practitioners

The following is self-explanatory. I and many colleagues have attended the Stop Delaying Justice course, and this is the CPS response. All we have to do now is hold them to it, and to avoid blaming police every time someone screws up.
The Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, Alison Saunders, has written to London firms in the following terms:

"As you know 'Stop Delaying Justice' is an initiative led by the judiciary in the magistrates' courts which will take effect in the New Year. The aim is that all contested trials in the magistrates' courts are fully case managed at the first hearing and disposed of at the second hearing. It has the support, amongst many others, of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I am writing to draw your attention to the approach I will be instructing prosecutors to take across magistrates' courts in the London CPS Area from 1 January 2012. With the challenges faced by all CJS agencies increasing, it has never been more important that principles of good case management and proportionality are followed if the overriding objective of the CPRs, to deal with cases justly, is to be fulfilled. To that end, by 1 January, we intend to ensure that the following actions are either in place, or at least well underway:

All prosecutors will be briefed in the principles and objectives of Stop Delaying Justice and will be working to support those objectives.
All prosecutors will be trained in the principles of effective case management, the CPRs, recent case law developments and the Senior Presiding Judge's 2009 directions in "Essential Case Management; Applying The Criminal Procedure Rules".

Prosecutors will in particular seek to engage with defence colleagues to identify the real issues and deal with as many aspects of summary trial case preparation as possible at the first hearing of the matter including the oral agreement of Section 9 and Section 10 evidence and early special measures directions.

We will seek to limit bureaucracy and interlocutory hearings where appropriate, by asking the court to permit oral notice of hearsay and bad character and to waive requirements for written counter notice. This would give the court the option of deciding whether applications either to admit or exclude such evidence should be dealt with immediately, at an interlocutory hearing, or by the trial court without the need for an unnecessary interim hearing.
We will also seek to ensure that that only those witnesses who are really needed in relation to genuinely disputed relevant issues will be warned to attend court and that cases are presented in a proportionate way. We believe that in the past some unnecessary warnings of for example police witnesses, have occurred when in fact their attendance was unnecessary, and we will be alert not to warn such witnesses for court. In particular we will not provisionally warn witnesses pending agreement of their statement and will not routinely warn officers in the case to attend court.

We will ensure that where appropriate and proportionate, if we rely on a summary of a defendant's interview at summary trial, we will adduce that summary in the form of the relevant section of the police report (MG5) rather than routinely rely on what is presently often called a 'record of taped interview' , or 'ROTI', on a form MG15. We are working with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that in all cases, towards the end of a suspect's interview, the explanation provided by the interviewee is fairly and accurately summarised on tape by the interviewer. As a check and balance, the interviewee of course has an existing right under PACE 1984 to add or clarify anything towards the end of their interview which may include any comment on the interviewer's summary.

Defendants have a right to a copy of a recording of their own interview under PACE 1984 and where defendants or their representatives specify, draft and propose reasonable amendments to the summary in the MG5, or reasonable admissions as to anything additional and admissible said or done in interview, we will be happy to agree such matters.

A case-managed trial should also be a more focused and shorter trial and our prosecutors will be instructed to propose proportionate time estimates and timetables to govern the duration of summary trials in accordance with CPR 3.10 and the principles set out in R v Jisl and Tekin [2004] EWCA Crim 696.

We believe that this approach will assist the court to fulfil the overriding objective of the CPRs and maximise the delivery of fairness, proportionality, expedition and efficiency within summary proceedings.

Fairness must be at the heart of the approach and I would welcome discussions with defence practitioners about any aspect of the approach we will be taking or any ways in which we can deliver efficient and timely summary justice.

Alison Saunders."