Archive for July 2013
The Government’s Consultation on the (further) reform of legal aid was noted in this blog in April 2013. While there is no evidence that the Government intends fundamentally to change its mind on its original proposals, it has made two concessions.
First it has abandoned the idea that those in receipt of legal aid should not have the ability to choose the lawyer they want.
Second, it has decided to do more work on proposals from the Law Society about how changes to legal aid practice might deliver savings while encouraging different forms of practice delivery. There will be a further limited consultation on these proposals in the autumn.
An excellent summary of the Secretary of State’s comments to the Justice Committee can be found at http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/grayling-promises-second-consultation-legal-aid-sets-red-lines
You can see what Mr Grayling said to the Justice Committee at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13501
On July 1 2013, the Property Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal came into existence, the latest step in the transformation of the tribunal system which followed the recommendations on the Leggatt Review of Tribunals in 2001. This particular reform had been delayed, despite recommendations from the Law Commission that the former Residential Property Tribunal should be brought within the reformed Tribunal structure.
The new Chamber brings together Rent Assessment Committees, Leasehold Valuation Tribunals, Residential Property Tribunals, Rent Tribunals, Agricultural Land Tribunals and the jurisdiction of the Adjudicator to HM Land Registry.
The Chamber is divided into three:
- Residential Property
- Land Registration
- Agricultural Land & Drainage
The types of case dealt with by the Property Chamber include:
- some disputes about private sector rents
- some disputes about residential leasehold management, including the payability of service charges
- valuation for enfranchisement and lease extension
- disputes about the right to buy where a property is considered to be particularly suitable for the elderly
- disputes about park homes
- appeals against local authority notices about the condition of a property and appeals about Houses in Multiple Occupation
- references from the Chief Land Registrar
- applications from the public to rectify or cancel documents relating to registered land
- appeals from Land Registry decisions relating to Network Access Agreements and any other application, matter or appeal under the Land Registration Act 2002
- disputes between agricultural tenants and landlords arising from tenancy agreements
- applications in respect of certain drainage disputes between neighbours.
For further information, go to http://www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/property-chamber
For the Law Commission report go to http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/publications/land-valuation-and-housing-tribunals.htm
In December 2012, the College of Policing was created. Its central mission is to set standards for the police service on training, development, skills and qualifications, and to help the service implement these standards. The College is currently a non-statutory body, though the Government hopes it will be put on a statutory footing by April 2014.
It takes over functions formerly undertaken by the National Policing Improvement Agency, which had been established in 2007 by the previous Labour Government.
The College of Policing’s website gives quite a lot of information about the different issues it seeks to address in the programmes or work that it undertakes.
For more information about the College, see http://www.college.police.uk/en/home.htm
For archive material about the National Policing Improvement Agency, see http://www.npia.police.uk/en/home.htm
On 28 June 2013, the Government published Transforming the Criminal Justice System: A Strategy & Action Plan to Reform the Criminal Justice System. The headline news that attracted media attention was that by 2016, and building on a pilot currently under way in Birmingham, all criminal trials would be run using electronic rather than paper files. It is argued that this will reduce waste and improve efficiency.
The action plan also proposes:
- ‘Digital embedded in everyday working’ Building on the current system where police digitally transfer case information to CPS, digital working will mean police can use mobile devices, with access to real-time intelligence and local information, to start building case files from the street and giving evidence via video-link becomes the norm, not the exception.
- ‘A Criminal Justice System which is faster.’ Legislating to enable the majority of high-volume, low-level ‘regulatory’ cases, such as TV licence evasion and many traffic offences, to be dealt with away from traditional magistrates’ courtrooms, which means freeing up those courts to deal with more serious cases;
- ‘A Criminal Justice System that is transparent and responsive’. This will support the extension of the ‘Track My Crime’ system, an initiative, launched by Avon and Somerset Constabulary, which gives victims the opportunity to check the progress of their case online, including the name of the responsible police officer. It allows the police to send updates to victims to update them on their case, creating a more open and transparent criminal justice system.
- ‘Care and consideration for victims and witnesses’ Providing extra support for victims and witnesses by offering them greater protection throughout the criminal justice process, for example by making it easier for witnesses to give evidence by video, and looking at the case for creating an independent complaints ombudsman for victims of crime. (The Government has already announced that it will pilot the use of pre-recorded evidence for vulnerable victims and witnesses so that they are no longer cross-examined in open court.)
This programme of change is to be driven forward by the Criminal Justice Board, which was established in February 2013.
The clear intention of Government is that the investment in IT foreshadowed in these proposals will eventually lead to reductions in public expenditure.
The Press Release on the proposals is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/damian-green-digital-courtrooms-to-be-rolled-out-nationally
Full detail of the proposals is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transforming-the-criminal-justice-system
Rather limited information about the Criminal Justice Board is at http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/moj/advisory-groups/criminal-justice-board