Autumn Update – Better Case Management
October 2015 will see the start of the latest Government initiative for making the Criminal Justice System more ‘efficient’. Better Case Management (“BCM”) is based on the principles espoused in Sir Brian Leveson’s report, “Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings”, which was published in January this year.
The principal aims are: robust case management, reduced hearings, maximum participation, full engagement, and efficient compliance with Criminal Procedure Rules.
The national implementation started on 5th October with the coming into force of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 (“CrimPR”) and the Case Management Practice Directions 2015 (“CMPD”).
As one of the eight “early adopters” of the scheme, Liverpool will be responsible for testing out and refining the changes under the judicial lead of His Honour Judge Goldstone QC. It is anticipated that all remaining courts will start operating BCM in early January 2016.
Regular updates will be provided in Lord Justice Gross’ BCM Newsletter. BCM will introduce two main case management initiatives, (1) a uniform national Early Guilty Plea scheme in the Crown Court; and (2) Crown Court disclosure in document heavy cases.
All cases sent from the magistrates’ court will now be listed for a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (“PTPH”) within 28 days. In Liverpool this will apply to all cases sent from the magistrates’ court on 26th October onwards.
At the PTPH, there will either be a guilty plea or a not guilty plea with robust case management for trial. By that stage, the parties would have already complied with their duty to engage about the case in an effort to achieve early resolution.
If a guilty plea is entered the Crown Court will be expected to sentence with a “stand down” pre-sentence report, wherever possible.
For straightforward contested cases, the PTPH will be the only hearing at the Crown Court before the trial. For more complex cases, or those where the judge decides that it is in the interests of justice, a further hearing will be listed.
With regards to disclosure in a document heavy case, the pilot scheme that has operated in four other areas will be adopted nationwide. This relies upon the Crown Prosecution Service conducting a detailed review of the case and serving a “Notification Form” in advance of the PTPH. Disclosure is then regularly reviewed and recorded on a “Disclosure Management Document”.
True to our values of service and innovation, Linskills has already adapted procedures and updated our electronic case management and diary systems so that we are ready to fully embrace the changes and engage positively with the new, streamlined, criminal courts.
Any improvements to efficiency in the Criminal Justice System is welcomed by us. Delay is the one issue, more than anything else, that causes frustration and anxiety for our clients.
Whilst we will adapt to any changes, we will nonetheless continue to be fearless in fighting for our clients’ rights and protecting them from the state or any judge, to ensure that they get a fair trial.
Nick Cockrell is the Head of Crime at Linskills.
Linskills are a law firm that help people accused of criminal offences throughout England and Wales. For a free consultation call 0800 0963 238 or send us a message.