Archive for August 2012
In the 2011-2012 edition of the book (pp 182-3), I summarise the recommendations of the Norgrove on reforms to the family justice system, in particular to reduce the unacceptable delays current blighting the system.
The Government’s response was published in Feb 2012, and its main conclusions have been noted in this blog.
There have been two recent further developments.
First, the creation of the proposed Family Justice Board has been taken a step forward with the appointment of its first Chair. Interestingly, the appointee is David Norgrove, the author of the original report. This makes sense – he clearly has a vision of how the family justice system should develop, and his appointment should allow him to steer the recommendations he made for the reform of the system.
For the annoucement, see http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/features/family-justice-board-chair-appointed
The second development comes from the judiciary. Following publication of the Norgrove report, Mr Justice Ryder was asked to lead a programme of consultation and to make recommendations for the ways in which judicial reform would assist the delivery of Norgrove’s objectives. At the end of July 2012, the Ryder Report was published.
He states that reforms will come in two stages. Stage 1 will focus on the better management of the court resources that are dealing with family matters. These measures are designed to ensure that the proposals currently before Parliament (in the Crime and Courts Bill) for the creation of a unified Family Court are properly implemented. He hopes that these administrative changes will be in place by mid-2013.
Stage 2 of the reforms will be based on principles set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is likely to receive Parliamentary approval in 2014. It is likely that the Bill that the second Bill will deal with the Government’s published desire to limit care cases to 26 weeks save in judicially excepted circumstances, to describe a more focused scrutiny of the final care plan, extend interim and supervision care orders without monthly renewal for six months and implement the Government’s proposals in private law relating to
shared parenting, child arrangement orders and contact enforcement.
Ryder argues that stage 2 will require judges to take greater responsibility for case management to reduce the delays that Norgrove so criticised.
Ryder stresses that for both reform stages there will need to be specialist judicial training to ensure that judges fully understand their new powers and responsibilities.
Full details of Mr Justice Ryder’s recommendations are at: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Reports/ryderj_recommendations_final.pdf
An interesting item on the BBC Today programme the other day concerned the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions – as head of the Crown Prosecution Service – to give greater opportunity to the victims of crime to ask for a review of any decision by the CPS not to take a prosecution forward.
As readers of the book will know, a decision to prosecute is taken by the application of the two stage ‘full code’ test set out in the Crown Prosecutors Code: the evidential stage; and the public interest stage. Around 80,000 cases a year which have been referred to the CPS are not proceeded with.
Until relatively recently, it was thought that if the CPS decided not to prosecute and told the prospective defendant of their decision, that was the end of the matter. But case law developments have indicated that senior judges think that it should be possible for a person affected by such a decision should be able to seek a review of that decision. The DPP agrees.
I thought I would try to find out a little more about this. It was not as straightforward as I anticipated. The idea of allowing easier review was set out by the DPP, not in a CPS consultation paper, but in a lecture delivered earlier this year, which has just been published in the Criminal Law Review.
Under the title ‘Finality in criminal justice: when should the CPS reopen a case?’ Keir Starmer develops an interesting argument that not all decisions can or should be final – even where this may leave an alleged criminal defendant not quite knowing whether he/she is out of the wood. (See 2012, Crim. L.R. 526)
With this as the starting point, I turned to the CPS Code for Crown Prosecutors to see if the policy outlined by the DPP was reflected there. Despite the fact that the CPS has just published a draft revised code – due to come into effect later this year/early next year – there was no specific reference to the new policy.
An email to me from the CPS suggested that there would be a separate Guidance Note on the implementation of the new policy in due course.
It is not going to be the case that all 80,000 cases will automatically reviewed. But it seems that there will be a procedure for those who think an incorrect decision has been taken to ask for a review. It seems to me that this is potentially quite an important change in prosecutions practice and procedure.
To read the new draft code (the consultation runs till 12 October 2012) go to http://www.cps.gov.uk/consultations/code_2012_consultation_index.html
So, after years of discussion about the desirability of reforming the House of Lords, the changes proposed by the Coalition Government have been kicked into the long grass. Tory backbench MPs have ensured that this Coalition policy would not see the light of day. Even the more modest reforms proposed by Lord Steel have been shelved – including sensible proposals that members of the House of Lords should be able to resign.
One consequence of this outcome is that the propsed changes to the constitution of the House of Commons are now also under threat – though final decisions on the size of the Commons and changes to constituency boudaries will not be made until 2013.