Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill 2014

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, published early in 2014, is a complex measure which proposes a significant number of changes to the law. The bulk of these relate to the criminal justice system, though the Government’s plans to change judicial review are also included in the Bill. The headline contents of the Bill are:

  • New Offences of Juror Misconduct: To reflect the changes to modern society, four new offences of juror misconduct will be introduced – researching details of a case (including any online research), sharing details of the research with other jurors, disclosing details of juror deliberation and engaging in other prohibited conduct.
  • New Criminal Offence of being Unlawfully At Large: Criminals who go on the run will face an additional sentence of up to two years. Offenders who have been released from the custodial part of their sentence and are recalled to custody because they have breached their strict licence conditions but do not surrender to custody are unlawfully at large. Once apprehended they may serve the remainder of their sentence but currently there is no additional punishment for these offenders.
  • Ending Automatic Early Release for Paedophiles and Terrorists: Criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child or serious terrorism offences will no longer be automatically released at the half-way point of their prison sentence. Under proposals in the Bill they would only be released before the end of their custodial term at the discretion of the independent Parole Board. Alongside this, no criminals who receive the tough Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) will be released automatically two-thirds of the way into their custodial term. This means that many of them will end up spending significantly more time in prison. In total these changes will affect about 500 offenders per year.
  • Clampdown on Cautions for Serious and Repeat Offenders: Criminals will no longer be able to receive a caution for the most serious offences such as rape and robbery and for a range of other serious ‘either way’ offences, for example possession of any offensive weapon, supplying Class A drugs or a range of sexual offences against children. For less serious offences, criminals will also no longer be able to receive a second caution for the same, or similar, offence committed in a two year period. In total these changes are likely to affect around 14,000 offenders a year.
  • Life Sentences for More Terrorist Offences: The maximum sentence for three terrorist offences – weapons training for terrorist purposes, other training for terrorism and making or possession of explosives, will be increased to a life sentence. Terrorists convicted of a second very serious offence will face the ‘two strikes’ automatic life sentence.
  • Charging Offenders for Court Costs: Convicted criminals will be made to pay towards the cost of running the country’s criminal courts. All convicted adult offenders will have to pay a charge; the money will be reinvested back into the running of the courts.
  • Single Magistrates to Handle Low-Level Cases: More than three quarters of a million low-level ‘regulatory cases’, such as TV licence evasion and road tax evasion, may be dealt with by a single magistrate rather than a bench of two or three. Legislation will allow a procedure to enable some summary-only, non-imprisonable offences to be dealt with by a single magistrate, supported by a legal adviser, away from traditional magistrates’ courtrooms.
  • Banning Violent Rape Pornography: Possession of explicit pornography that shows images depicting rape will become illegal. It is currently illegal to publish this material and the new legislation will close a loophole to also prevent possession.
  • Overhauling Detention of Young Offenders : The rehabilitation of young offenders will be overhauled by introducing secure colleges. Led by a principal, the secure college will put education at the heart of youth rehabilitation. The legislation follows the announcement on 17 January that a pathfinder secure college will be opened in the East Midlands in 2017.
  • Increase Juror Age Limit : People aged 75 and under will be able to sit as jurors in England and Wales. The move is part of a drive to make the criminal justice system more inclusive and to reflect modern society by giving more people the opportunity to serve on a jury. The current age limit is 70.

Finally, Judicial Review Reform: The Government argues that economic growth will be supported by measures to speed up the Judicial Review process and reduce the number of meritless claims clogging the system. This argument is fiercely contested. It will be the subject of a separate blog.

For details see http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/criminaljusticeandcourts.html

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Written by lwtmp

March 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Chapter 5, chapter 6

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