Archive for the ‘Chapter 5’ Category
Not exactly like the OJ Simpson trial in the US, but a very small next step has been taken in giving the media direct access to proceedings in Court. From 5 October 2013, five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice – which houses the Court of Appeal – have been wired to allow broadcasting to take place.
Cases will not be shown in full. Rather, the broadcasters – BBC, Sky, ITV and Press Association – will be able to film proceedings from only one court room on any given day. They will agree which courtroom and will inform the judiciary the day before.
They will be able to show the footage for the purpose of news reporting only – i.e. not streamed live. All costs associated with filming within the Court of Appeal have been met by the broadcasters involved.
Advocates’ arguments, and the judges’ summing up, decision and (in criminal cases) sentencing remarks may be filmed.
Victims, witnesses and defendants will not be filmed.
In general I welcome this modest development. I do hope that when further decisions about broadcasting proceedings are taken, consideration will be given to alternative procedures, like tribunals or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, which the ordinary citizen is far more likely to encounter in real life.
Further information is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-day-for-justice-television-broadcasting-in-courts-goes-live
As noted in the book, Chapter 5, there is a variety of ways in which cases may be disposed of without a court hearing – generically known as out-of-court disposals.
Since 2013, the Ministry of Justice has taken responsibility for policy developments in relation to out-of-court disposals. In April 2013, it issued guidance on the use of simple cautions; this was accompanied by a review of simple cautions, the results of which were published in September 2013. The Justice Secretary announced that, going forward, simple cautions would no longer be available for indictable only offences and certain serious either way offences involving possession of a knife, offensive weapon or firearm in a public place, offences involving child sex abuse or child pornography, and supplying Class A drugs. Exceptions will be made in certain cases and where a senior officer, as well as CPS if necessary, approves of their use.
In addition, the Secretary of State announced a more general review of the use of out-of-court disposals.
For links to current guidance on out-of-court disposals, see http://www.justice.gov.uk/out-of-court-disposals
The Howard League for Prison Reform, established in the mid 19th century, is a national charity ‘working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. Too much money is spent on a penal system which doesn’t work, doesn’t make our communities safer and fails to reduce offending’.
In this podcast I talk to Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the League. She speaks about the work of the League, noting some of the successful impacts it has made in recent years. She talks about penal policy in the UK arguing that it operates in a more ‘punitive’ way than other European countries (including former Easter-bloc). She makes a passionate defence of the current probation service and deplores the current Government’s approach to reform of the service. Finally she calls on those setting out on their legal studies to understand the importance of social justice as an aspect of being a professional lawyer.
You can listen to Frances at http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/orc/resources/law/els/partington13_14/student/podcasts/Crook.mp3
To read about the work of the Howard League go to http://www.howardleague.org/
In July 2012, I noted developments relating to the encouragement of early guilty pleas. At that stage, a scheme had been rolled out in the magistrates’ courts and a crown court scheme was being trialled in London.
The crown court scheme has now been rolled out nationally.
The official view of the scheme is:
“The principle of the Early Guilty Plea Scheme is to identify those cases where a defendant is likely to plead guilty and to expedite those cases to an early guilty plea hearing….The Early Guilty Plea Scheme acknowledges that around three quarters of Crown Court cases plead guilty on the day of trial and is designed to encourage the guilty plea where appropriate to be entered at an earlier opportunity to prevent delaying justice unnecessarily.
The Early Guilty Plea Scheme allows the defence and CPS to identify those cases likely to plead guilty and offers a credit on sentence for the defendant where they plead guilty at the Early Guilty Plea Hearing. The Scheme encourages discussion between the CPS and defence practitioners before the Early Guilty Plea Hearing takes place where any issues such as basis of plea can be agreed. This discussion can be undertaken using secure email as a way of ensuring that the CPS are able to respond quickly to any queries. This ensures that all parties are ready for the Early Guilty Plea Hearing where, providing the National Offender Management Service have a pre-sentence report, sentencing can occur at the Early Guilty Plea Hearing avoiding additional hearings for sentence.
One of the benefits of the Scheme for defence practitioners is to enable them to secure maximum credit on sentence for their clients and reducing the number of hearings that they are required to attend. This also relieves the stress and anxiety felt by victims, witnesses and defendants whose case is finalised more quickly.”
As noted in the book the practical advantages of the scheme – in terms of saving resources, and improving efficiency – are to a degree at odds with the ‘due process’ model of criminal justice. Do you think the correct balance has been achieved?
For more information see
In August 2013, I noted that Mike Maiden had been appointed as the Director of the new Probation Service. He has withdrawn from the post for personal reasons. The Government has just announced that, in his place, Colin Allars, the current director of probation within the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), has been chosen to take up the new role. Sarah Payne’s appointment as director of the NPS in Wales is unaffected.
The Government announcement states: “the two will work together to lead the new service. It is due to launch in April 2014 and tasked with protecting the public from 30,000 of the most dangerous offenders in England and Wales each year…”
The long awaited launch of the National Crime Agency occurred on Monday 7 October 2013. It brings together, in a single body, four formerly separate activities under four Command heads. These are:
Border Control Command, designed to increase security at border entry points.
Economic Crime Command covering a range of crimes including:
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) Command which aims to protect children from sexual exploitation on the internet.
Organised Crime Command (OCC) which leads, supports and co-ordinates the national effort to identify, pursue and disrupt serious and organised criminals.
The Agency also contains the National Cyber Crime Agency, which aims to provide a joined-up national response to cyber and cyber-enabled crime.
Critics of this new initiative argue that this is largely a ‘re-branding’ exercise for pre-existing bodies with a rather underwhelming track record, which is also likely to struggle because it has had its funding cut. My view is that it is far to early to assume that this will be the case. The Agency has to have some time to establish itself before we can determine whether it is delivering the benefits planned for it.
There is quite a lot of information about the agency available on-line. Go to http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/ and follow the various and varied links.
The Government is currently engaged in a delicately choreographed exercise relating to the use by the police of their power to stop and search people.
Following the widespread riots that swept London and other major cities in the summer of 2011, there arose claims that one of the reasons why there was considerable distrust in many communities – especially ethnic minority communities – with the police arose from the use of stop and search powers. As a consequence, in December 2011 the Home Secretary commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to carry out an inspection into the use of stop and search legislation in all 43 Home Office funded forces in England and Wales.
At the beginning of July 2013, the Home Secretary announced that she wanted to hold a consultation on the use of these power. There was no suggestion that the powers would be abolished. But the consultation was designed to get views from the public about how they should be used.
Just a few days later, HMIC published its report. it is very critical of police practice in this area. The headline conclusions, drawn from the Press Release, are:
Over a million stop and search encounters have been recorded every year since 2006; but in 2011/12 only 9% led to arrests. The police use of stop and search powers has been cited as a key concern for police legitimacy and public trust in most of the major public inquiries into policing since the 1970s. While there is much public debate about the disproportionate use of the powers on black and minority ethnic people, there has to date been surprisingly little attention paid – by either the police service or the public – to how effective the use of stop and search powers is in preventing and detecting crime.
The inspection, which included a public survey of over 19,000 people found that:
- the majority of forces (30) had not developed an understanding of how to use the powers of stop and search so that they are effective in preventing and detecting crime, with too many forces not collecting sufficient information to assess whether or not the use of the powers had been effective;
- 27% of the 8,783 stop and search records examined by HMIC did not include sufficient grounds to justify the lawful use of the power. The reasons for this include: poor understanding amongst officers about what constitutes the ‘reasonable grounds’ needed to justify a search, poor supervision, and an absence of direction and oversight by senior officers;
- there is high public support for the use of these powers, but this support diminishes when there is a perception that the police are ‘overusing’ them; and
- half of forces did nothing to understand the impact that stop and search had on communities, and less than half complied with the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code of practice to make arrangements for stop and search records to be scrutinised by the public.
When all findings are considered, HMIC concludes that the priority chief officers give to improving the use of stop and search powers has slipped since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report in 1999.
Notwithstanding these general findings, the report gives examples which show that use of stop and search powers has the potential to play an important role in the way the police prevent crime and catch criminals, whilst at the same time preventing unnecessary arrests. The proactive use of stop and search powers can lead to serious crimes being prevented and detected:
- East. Arrest of a predatory paedophile after police officers on routine patrol found a car with blacked-out windows parked in suspicious circumstances on an industrial estate. The driver tried to distract them from looking in the vehicle, which aroused further suspicion and the officers decided to search it, finding a 12-year-old girl who had been groomed for sex through social media. The offender was convicted and received a 17-year prison sentence.
- North East. Whilst officers were dealing with a collision on a motorway, they smelled cannabis in one of the vehicles and conducted a search of the car and the occupants, finding a large quantity of cannabis in bags and suitcases. Further enquiries led to a further seizure of approximately £400,000 worth of cannabis, and more arrests were made. The people involved were part of an organised group suspected of committing crime nationally.
- North. Routine patrol officers checked a car that was shown on police computer systems as associated with drug misuse. The officers’ suspicion was raised on speaking to the occupants and they conducted a search, which led to finding a large suitcase containing many unsealed bottles of liquid labelled as shampoo, which were subsequently found to contain over 30 kilos of high purity amphetamine, with an estimated street value in excess of £3 million.
The Government’s consultation on stop and search continues until 24 September 2013. Announcements on the outcomes of the consultation will appear later in the year.
All the information about the HMIC report is available at http://www.hmic.gov.uk/publication/stop-and-search-powers-20130709/
. You can follow the links to the press release, the full report and findings from individual police forces.
Details of the Home Office consultation is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/stop-and-search
The original code of practice for victims, though innovative at the time (2006), is now regarded as a bit out of date. The Government is currently working on a revised version. This will set out more clearly what different groups of victims should be entitled to expect. The new Code will contain sections on
- Entitlements for victim
- Duties for criminal justice agencies
- Entitlements to children and young people under 18
- Duties for criminal justice agencies for children and young people under 18, and
The new Code will also for the first time include restorative justice in the issues to be considered in relation to the victims of crime.
It will also propose changes to the ways in which complaints can be made when things are alleged to have gone wrong.
For more detail on the work so far, see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime
The Government has made two key appointment in the process of creating the new National Probation Service.
Mike Maiden, former Chief Executive of Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust, will undertake the role of Director of Probation, leading the National Probation Service in England.
Sarah Payne, current Chief Executive of Wales Probation Trust, will take up the post as Director National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Wales. Her role will also include overarching responsibility for public and private prisons and contractual oversight of private sector prison delivery in Wales.
They will lead a team of the country’s top offender managers, working with around 30,000 offenders each year who pose a high-risk of serious harm to the public.
The new directors will work alongside private and voluntary sector organisations who will be delivering rehabilitation services to low and medium risk offenders within 21 Contract Package Areas across England and Wales.4
They take up full responsibilities in April 2014.
For more detail go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-probation-service-appointments-announced
In May 2013, the Ministry of Justice published “Transforming Rehabilitation: A Strategy for Reform”. The strategy sets out the Government’s plans for transforming the way in which offenders are managed in the community in order to bring down reoffending rates.
The key aspects of the reforms are:
- Creation of a new public sector National Probation Service (see separate blog item).
- Providing that every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community. The Offender Rehabilitation Bill, introduced into the House of Lords in May 2013, will – when enacted – extend this statutory supervision and rehabilitation to all 50,000 of the most prolific group of offenders – those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody.
- Putting in place a nationwide ‘through the prison gate’ resettlement service, meaning most offenders are given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community. This will be supported by ensuring that most offenders are held in a prison designated to their area for at least three months before release.
- Opening the market up to a diverse range of new rehabilitation providers, designed to get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at the local as well as national level.
- Introducing new payment incentives for market providers to focus on reforming offenders, giving providers flexibility to do what works and freedom from bureaucracy, but only paying them in full for real reductions in reoffending.
For further information on the Government’s plans see http://www.justice.gov.uk/transforming-rehabilitation
For further information on the Offenders Rehabilitation Bill 2013 go to http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/offenderrehabilitation.html