Sunday, October 09, 2011

Balancing Act

It's no secret that the Justice budget has been hit pretty hard by the fiscal crisis, and every court user is seeing cutbacks on what used to be taken-for-granted services. There is increasing pressure on us all to push business through the courts (I have to attend some training in a few weeks called 'Stop Delaying Justice') which is all very well if we resist unreasonable or unnecessary delay, but about which we need to be vigilant if we are not to hamper a just outcome.
We had a drink-drive case in the other day, in which the defendant had contacted a specialist firm of solicitors who deal with motoring matters, who gave him a letter to hand to the court saying that they couldn't attend today, so would we please put matters off for two weeks? No we couldn't - the Criminal Procedure Rules require a plea to be taken on the first appearance, and courts no longer grant long adjournments on the nod.
We thought that we were about to deal swiftly with the next case, which came about as a result of someone taking exception to the sight of an acquaintance being arrested and going on to give the police a lot of unwanted advice and comments. After a warning, he was given an £80 ticket for the usual Section 5 Public Order offence. But he refused to accept it and demanded a court hearing. On the day the CPS had a look at it and decided on the pragmatic course of offering a bindover, which our man firmly refused. I explained that a bindover is not a conviction, and does not go on your record, but he was adamant. He wants his day in court and he wants a trial.
So we listed the trial for half a day as he is calling two witnesses and the Crown have three PCs to call. I couldn't help wondering what all this was going to cost, allowing police and court time - it must be well into the thousands.
I just hope someone senior in the CPS has a look at the file and drops the case, bindover or no bindover.

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