Monday, April 05, 2010


The Judicial Office has just completed a hastily-arranged series of seminars across the country to brief magistrates, in particular court chairmen, on the 2010 Criminal Procedure Rules. There was some suspicion that an unspent pot of money had been found and that it had to be used before the end of the budget year. I went to a smart hotel in London with a couple of hundred colleagues and we were addressed by a senior circuit judge and the Senior Presiding Judge, and the panel for questions included the Chairman of the MA, while Keir Starmer, the DPP, was in the front row. The theme of the meeting was to encourage benches to be robust in moving cases forward, and there was considerable emphasis on pushing defence lawyers into getting their client to enter a plea at the first hearing. This cribsheet was handed out (and will be sent to all magistrates shortly).
When it came to questions one of the first points to emerge was that a high proportion of cracked and ineffective trials are down to the CPS - this comment attracted a chorus of agreement from the assembled JPs. Then a magistrate expressed unhappiness with the Virtual Courts experiment - more applause followed. There was further discontent about the delays caused by legal aid issues - there again there was applause.
Make of it what you will. I have been reminded of case management issues, and I shall strive to keep cases moving, as I have done for some years. But I shall not allow justice and fairness to be compromised, however much of a nuisance that might be.

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