Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for the ‘Chapter 5’ Category

Disclosure of unused evidence in a criminal trial

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Part 2 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 makes provision for the publication of a Code of Practice which sets out how police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation. A previous version of the code was published in 2005.

In May 2014 the Magistrates’ Court Disclosure Review recommended a streamlined procedure in summary cases that are expected to end in a guilty plea, so that a schedule of unused material need not be served in such cases. To this end it recommended amendments to the code, some of which are incorporated in the revised code.

The revised code was laid in Parliament on 28 January 2015. The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Code of Practice) Order 2015 will bring it into force the day after the Order has been approved by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

The Code, in its present unappoved form is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/criminal-procedure-and-investigations-act-code-of-practice

Written by lwtmp

March 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Victims in the criminal justice system: getting the balance right

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Successive governments have attempted to improve the position of the victims of crime in the criminal justice system. But there is clear evidence that there is still room for further improvement.

In January 2015, the Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, published a report which showed the gap between what was supposed to happen to victims, and what actually happened. The principal recommendation of her report was the adoption of a set of principles, drawn up by her, to which all actors in the criminal justice system should adhere.

The Commissioner stated that all victims should have:

  • Clear information from agencies and service providers on how they will support them in raising a concern or making a complaint about the service they have received
  • Information on how informal concerns can be submitted and dealt with, in additional to processes for the submitting of formal complaints
  • Details on how agencies and service providers will keep victims informed of the progress of their complaint at all stages
  • The option to state their preferred method of communication with an agency or service provider when raising a concern or making a complaint
  • Clear information to understand what to do if not happy with the response that has been received, including details about the role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the right to complain to them
  • Information on how they might be able to be involved in developing, reviewing and improving an agency’s or service provider’s complaints process.

In addition, she stated that agencies and service providers should ensure they offer to all victims:

  • A clear statement about the support they will provide to victims who wish to raise a concern or make a complaint about the service that has been provided
  • Processes to deal with concerns swiftly and informally where appropriate, in addition to processes to deal with more formal complaints
  • A commitment that they will deliver mandatory training and development plans for all staff who deal with victims’ complaints
  • A commitment to ensure that all staff who interact with victims, have in place a performance objective reflecting how they will be held accountable for treating victims with empathy, dignity and respect
  • Properly defined processes and recording practices which enable victims complaints to be handled proactively and appropriately
  • A published statement on whether they will apply the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s Principles of Good Complaint Handling in their complaints processes

In addition, agencies should publish information illustrating how complaints from victims have led to improvements in services.

The Government announced in February 2015 that it accepted these proposals and would work to bring them into practical effect.

The Commissioner’s report is at http://victimscommissioner.org.uk/baroness-newlove-victims-still-let-down-by-justice-agencies/

The Government’s response is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/response-to-the-victims-commissioners-review-of-complaints-and-resolution-for-victims-of-crime

In January 2015, the Government has announced that an online service TrackMyCrime, which has been developed by Avon and Somerset police, will start to be rolled out nationally. This is designed to keep victims updated on the progress of their case, allow them to submit details about stolen or damaged property, and find information on support and advice. Crucially, officers and victims can securely exchange messages with one another at any time and police can regularly update victims on the progress of the case. This offers more flexibility for victims and will be more efficient for police officers working shifts.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-tracking-service-launched-for-victims-of-crime

And in yet a further development, the Government has announced further support for victims and witnesses in court, through a doubling of the number of Registered Intermediaries – people able to support victims and witnesses as they give evidence in court.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/courtroom-communications-experts-to-double

Written by lwtmp

March 3, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings

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The results of the inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson into the efficiency of criminal proceedings was published in January 2015.

His task was to come up with recommendations that could be implemented without legislative change.

In summary, he recommends:

  • the greater use  of  video and other conferencing technology across the system (including courts and prisons) particularly featuring remote hearings in the Crown Court, which would lead to a better service for all those involved and reduce both delay and cost (para. 40-50);
  • facilitating the use in court of evidence gathered by police on video cameras mounted on their bodies or helmets (para. 58) and a streamlined approach to other evidence which has been captured electronically,  such as interviews of child witnesses (achieving best evidence) and interviews with defendants (para. 250);
  • more flexible opening hours in magistrates’ courts to accommodate those who cannot attend hearings during normal office hours (para. 54);
  • tighter case management by judges, including, in appropriate cases, the provision of timetables for evidence and  speeches (para. 274, 281);
  • that contracts awarded to those responsible for delivering prisoners to court should require greater efficiency so that prisoners appear on time and do not delay proceedings (para. 214).
  • that there should be funding available to pay for the inevitable cost of changing from the current systems to the more efficient ones (para. 320).

There is also an interesting chapter (chapter 10) on other changes that might be contemplated, but on which, because they would require legislation, he does not make recommendations. These include the controversial question of whether the ways in which defendants can opt for jury trial should be changed.

The full report can be found at http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/review-of-efficiency-in-criminal-proceedings-final-report/

Written by lwtmp

February 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Criminal justice – simplifying out of court disposals

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The Government has recently announced that it is launching a new pilot scheme that will significantly change the way in which out of court disposals for those accused of criminal activity are dealt with.

It is already the case that the use of out-of-court disposals overall has decreased in recent years. Thus in the 12 months to the end of March 2014, there were 391,171 given, comprising 235,323 cautions, 77,933 cannabis warnings and 77,915 penalty notices for disorder. This compares to 522,133 out-of-court disposals given in the 12 months to the end of March 2010.

The new scheme – which does not affect penalty notices for disorder – will comprise:

  1. a new statutory community resolution – aimed at first-time offenders. This will be used to resolve minor offences through an agreement with the offender. It will empower victims, giving them a say in how they want the offender to be dealt with. It could see an offender offering a verbal or written apology to the victim, making reparation (which can include fixing material damages) or paying financial compensation;
  2. a suspended prosecution – designed to tackle more serious offending. This will allow the police to attach 1 or more conditions to the disposal which must be reparative, rehabilitative and/or punitive in nature. It could see the offender receiving a punitive fine or attending a course designed to rehabilitate him or her and reduce the likelihood of re-offending

Under this new two-tier framework, offenders would have to take steps to comply with the disposal, rather than just accepting a warning, which is often the case with the current system. If they fail to comply, they will risk being prosecuted for the original offence.

The pilot scheme will operate in three polic areas for 12 months and will be assessed before a decision is taken on whether to roll out the framework nationally.

For further information, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/putting-an-end-to-soft-option-cautions

Written by lwtmp

November 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

Setting time limits for bail?

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One of the curiosities of the Criminal Justice system is that, while there are strict limits on the time a person may be held for questioning in a police station, there are currently no limits on the time a person is out on police bail. This can result in a person remaining under suspicion  for a very considerable length of time. In a recent speech, the Home Secretary has  announced that there would be a consultation on the issue and has asked the College of Policing to review current practice in police forces.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29624498

and https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretarys-college-of-policing-speech

Written by lwtmp

October 16, 2014 at 10:39 am

Posted in Chapter 5

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Victim’s right to review a decision not to prosecute.

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It used to be the case that when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to proceed with a prosecution, that was the end of the matter. The courts were clearly unhappy that the CPS should never reconsider a decision not to prosecute. On 29 June 2011, the Court of Appeal in R v Christopher Killick [2011] EWCA Crim 1608, considered in some detail the right of a victim of crime to seek a review of a CPS decision not to prosecute. It concluded that:

• a victim has a right to seek a review in such circumstances;

• a victim should not have to seek recourse to judicial review;

• the right to a review should be made the subject of a clearer procedure and guidance with time limits.

Following this judgement, the CPS created a new scheme – the Victim’s Right to Review Scheme – to give effect to the principles laid down in Killick and also to meet Article 10 of the European Union Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support, and protection of victims of crime. It was launched in June 2013.

Data recently published by the CPS shows that between 5 June 2013 and 31 March 2014, the CPS made 113,952 decisions which could be subject to appeal under the VRR scheme. The CPS reviewed 1,186 cases; of these 162 decisions were overturned.

The CPS also undertoook some work to see how the scheme was working in the light of experience. The outcome of this work is that a slightly revised, final, scheme of review was prepared and published in July 2014.

For the data, see http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/victims_right_to_review/vrr_data/index.html

The revised scheme is at http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/victims_right_to_review/index.html

Written by lwtmp

October 12, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Improving policing standards: the College of Policing

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Last year, I noted in this blog the creation (in December 2012) of the College of Policing – replacing the National Police Improvement Agency.

Following the enactment of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the College is now recognised in legislation. (See Part 11, sections 123-130.) The College is given specific statutory power to issue Codes of Practice.

The core areas of responsibility of the College are:
• setting standards of professional practice
• accrediting training providers and setting  learning and development outcomes

• identifying, developing and promoting good practice based on evidence
• supporting police forces and other organisations to work together to protect the public and prevent crime
• identifying, developing and promoting ethics, values and standards of integrity.

The College has set itself ambitious aims. For example it is seeking to extend its networks beyond the traditional boundaries
of policing – to include the public, further and higher education, the private sector, charitable organisations and the wider public sector – and make the most of all opportunities to work with others to support policing.

It wants to create open and transparent development opportunities for police officers and staff at all levels. These will include:
• being part of a network with local academic institutions to gather evidence and test new approaches
• participating in a community of practice
• providing peer support to share experiences
• working in the College or with one of our partner organisations to gain new skills and knowledge, while sharing learning and experience.

Further detail of its plans can be found in its statement of strategic intent at http://www.college.police.uk/en/20801.htm.

The reason for the creation of the College lies in a number of difficult issues that have affected police forces in recent years which has led to falls in public trust in the ability of the police to work effectively and fairly in carrying out its work.

Responding to these worries, one of the first actions of the new College was to develop and publish a new Code of Ethics for the police service (similar in aim to codes of ethical practice which apply to most professional groups). The Code was published in July 2014.

It is based on 9 core policing principles (themselves based on the Nolan Principles for Standards in Public Life). They are

  • Accountability: You are answerable for your decisions, actions and omissions.
  • Fairness: You treat people fairly.
  • Honesty: You are truthful and trustworthy.
  • Integrity: You always do the right thing.
  • Leadership: You lead by good example.
  • Objectivity: You make choices on evidence and your best professional judgement.
  • Openness: You are open and transparent in your actions and decisions.
  • Respect: You treat everyone with respect.
  • Selflessness: You act in the public interest.

Perhaps surprisingly this is the first time that a set of ethical standards for policing has been published.

Naturally it will be asked what difference publication of the Code will have on day to day policing. This question certainly cannot be answered at this stage. However, as the College itself notes, its effect will become clearer if the public starts to acknowledge that standards of police integrity have started to improve.

The Code is available at http://www.college.police.uk/en/20972.htm

More detail about the work of the college is available on its website at http://www.college.police.uk/en/home.htm

Written by lwtmp

October 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

Posted in Chapter 5

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