Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for the ‘Chapter 4’ Category

Transforming our Justice System: Transformation – Courts and Tribunals 2022

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Despite the loss of the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017 at the General Election, held in June 2017, work on the Transforming our Justice System programme continues apace. (For those aspects of the reforms which need legislation, a replacement bill is expected shortly.)

Keeping up to date with the progress that has been made is hard, as most of the changes do not hit the headlines in the media. (About the only issue which has been subject to any public discussion has been criticism from the Bar about a pilot trialling the use of courts for longer periods during the day. The criticism focussed almost entirely on the inconvenience this would cause to barristers – no mention of the possibility that the public might prefer court hearings outside the traditional 10-4 Monday-Friday time frame.)

Specific developments can be noted by keeping an eye on Press Releases from the Ministry of Justice. A recent example is the announcement of the opening of the first two Courts and Tribunals Service Centres in Birmingham and Stoke on Trent

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/first-courts-tribunals-service-centres-launched

A more rolling source of news can be found in the extremely interesting blog relating to the transformation programme – now called Transformation: Courts and Tribunals 2022. This provides news about the new services that are being developed for modernising the courts and tribunals system, both giving  accounts of what is currently on going and also what is planned.

The link to the blog is at https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/category/transformation-courts-and-tribunals-2022/

It is possible to sign up to an email notification service so that you are told when a new blog entry is published.

 

 

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Prisons and Courts Bill 2017: new version awaited

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One of the casualties of the calling of the General Election in June 2017 was that the Prison and Courts Bill 2017 was lost – i.e. failed to complete its Parliamentary process.

I have noted in earlier blogs the key features of this important legislation, both in relation to the reform of the Prison Service and to the Civil Justice system. It also planned to deal with rules relating to whiplash injuries (see entries in Spotlight on the Justice System 8 March 2017.)

It is clear from announcements in the Queen’s speech – delivered in June 2017 – that the Bill will be introduced, not necessarily in the same form but with the same policy objectives in mind.

For the moment, therefore, plans are on hold (though civil servants are actively working on the assumption that eventually they will get the new legal powers they need to introduce the proposed reforms.)

I will give further details when the new Bill is published.

New Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice: David Lidington MP

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Following the outcome of the General Election in 2017, the period of office of the first female Lord Chancellor, Lynne Truss MP, was brought to an end.

This was widely predicted, as there was a widely held opinion, especially among lawyers and the judiciary, that she had failed to gain the confidence of the legal profession. In particular, her failure to intervene to protect the independence of the judiciary when sections of the mass media attacked senior judges for upholding the argument that parliamentary authority was required before the formal process of the UK leaving the EU could begin, was seen as a lack of understanding of the Lord Chancellor’s obligations to protect the independence of th judiciary, set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Lord Thomas, the current Lord Chief Justice, was particularly critical of this.

Truss’ replacement is David Lidington MP. He is another post holder who has no experience of the law. Under section 2 of the Constitutional Reform Act, non-lawyers must nevertheless be ‘qualified by experience’. What this phrase means in practice is proving hard to determine. Presumably the post holder should be someone who understands and is willing to uphold the independence of the judiciary – even where such independence may lead to decisions unwelcome to the Government of the day.

At present it is impossible to say whether the new appointee will turn out to be a more satisfactory appointment than his predecessor, though his previous experience as a Foreign Office Minister suggests that he may have a particular understanding of the importance of upholding the rule of law, and the function of the judiciary is the process.

For comments of the Lord Chief Justice to the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords see http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/constitution-committee/lord-chief-justice/oral/49312.pdf

For the Lord Chancellor’s speech at his swearing-in ceremony, see https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lord-chancellor-swearing-in-speech-david-lidington

 

 

 

 

 

Written by lwtmp

July 8, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Increasing diversity in the Judiciary

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There has long been a desire to see more female and black and minority ethnic (BAME) people appointed to the judiciary. The present Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas has promoted a number of initiatives designed to build on work already started by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

In April 2017, the Judicial Diversity Committee of the Judges’ Council published its latest report on progress together with – for the first time – an Action Plan for activities to be undertaken in 2017-2018.

The headline objectives of the Committee are set out in the report as follows:

In the next 12 months, we will –

  • continue our dialogue with BAME lawyers better to understand the barriers they face and identify what more the judiciary can do to support them;

  • work with the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx to ensure that we are doing all we can to reach the broadest range of talent;

  • encourage more networking among the existing courts and tribunals judiciary;

  • run more workshops to support a greater number of candidates from under-represented groups to prepare for the selection process;

  • further develop our communications to potential candidates and those who have an interest in judicial diversity; and

  • improve the monitoring and evaluation of our initiatives.

While these aims may seem  little bland, detailed reading of the report reveals that there is intended to be an extensive programme of workshops, mentoring, outreach and other initiative designed to encourage those from groups currently under-represented in the judiciary to think about law and a judicial career.

The report also provides a link to a number of judges talking about their experience in becoming a judge – designed to inspire others to contemplate following their path. See https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/judges-career-paths/videos-judges-talk-about-their-judicial-careers/

The report is at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/judicial-diversity-committee-of-the-judges-council-report-on-progress-and-action-plan-2016-17/

 

 

 

Transforming the Justice System: the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017

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Enromous changes to the ways in which courts – both criminal and civil – and tribunals operate have already been foreshadowed in a number of policy documents published during 2016. Parts 2 to 4 of the Prisons and Courts Bill contain provisions that will give statutory authority to the changes that have been proposed.

The headline provisions may be set out as follows:

Part 2 creates new procedures in civil, family, tribunal and criminal matters.

It makes changes to court procedures in the Crown Court and magistrates’ courts to make processes and case management more efficient.

It allows some offenders charged with summary-only, non-imprisonable offences to be convicted and given standard penalties using a new online procedure.

It extends the use of live audio and video links, and ‘virtual’ hearings where no parties are present in the court room but attend by telephone or video conferencing facilities.

It makes provision which will apply across the civil, criminal and tribunal jurisdictions to ensure public participation in proceedings which are heard virtually (by the streaming of hearings), including the creation of new criminal offences to guard against abuse, for example by recording such stramed hearings.

It creates a new online procedure rules committee that will be able to create new online procedure rules in relation to the civil, tribunal and family jurisdictions.

It bans cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses  – in particular those who have been the subject of domestic abuse – in certain family cases.

It confers the power to make procedure rules for employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the Tribunal Procedure Committee and extends the membership of the Committee to include an employment law practitioner and judge or non-legal member.

 

Part 3 contains measures relating to the organisation and functions of courts and tribunals.

It extends the role of court and tribunal staff authorised to exercise judicial functions giving the relevant procedure rules committees the power to authorise functions in their respective jurisdictions.

It abolishes local justice areas, enabling magistrates to be appointed on a national basis, not just to a specific local justice area.

It replaces statutory declarations with statements of truth in certain traffic and air quality enforcement proceedings.

It makes reforms to the arrangements for the composition of employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

It enables the High Court to make attachment of earnings orders for the recovery of money due under a judgment debt, as far as practicable, on the same basis as in the County Court.

Part 4 contains measures relating to the judiciary and the Judicial Appointments Commission.

It enables more flexible deployment of judges by enabling them to sit in different jurisdictions.

It brings the arrangements for the remuneration of judges and members of employment tribunals – currently undertaken by the Secretary of State for Employment – under the remit of the Lord Chancellor.

It rationlises the roles of  judges in leadership positions who will support a reformed courts and tribunals system. (This includes provision to abolish the statutory post of Justice Clerk; this role will continue, but those qualified to be Clerks will also be able to undertake analogous work in other court/tribunal contexts.)

It  gives the Judicial Appointments Commission the power to carry out more work (not directly related to judicials appointments) on a cost-recovery basis.

Source, Explanatory Notes to the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017, available at https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0145/en/17145en02.htm

Independent Office for Police Conduct

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Following a review of the governance arrangements for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and a Government Consulation held in 2015, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides in section 33 and Schedule 9 for the Commission to be renamed the Independent Office for Police Conduct. It will continue to investigate complaints against the police, but will have a clearer governance structure.

This change is in part a response to survey evidence showing a lack of public confidence in the current IPCC.

The review is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/governance-of-the-independent-police-complaints-commission.

The consultation, published on the same date, is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-the-independent-police-complaints-commission-structure-and-governance.

 

Written by lwtmp

February 21, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Implementation of Law Commission reports

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As a former law Commissioner, I retain an interest in the progress being made with the implementation of Law Commission reports. Under the Law Commission Act 2009, the Government is required to publish an Annual Report setting out progress with the implementarion programme. All went swimmingly up to March 2015 – annual reports were duly published, as required.

But nothing in 2016. The Government has now (January 2017) published the sixth report on implementation, setting out progress between January 2015 and January 2016 – but ‘updated to the point of publication’ – i.e. including details of what happened during 2016.

So what happens now? It seems unlikely that there will be a further formal report until early 2018. Reports every other year might actually make good sense. But that is not what the legislation requires. So long as the legal requirement for an annual report is on the statute book Government should take note of it.

Turning to the content of the report itself, if has to be said that, while no reports from the Law Commission have been definitively rejected by the Government,  the list of reports still under consideration by the Government is considerably longer than the list of reports implemented either wholly or in part.

The main success stories were in the areas of consumer rights, contempt of court by jurors, and the rights of third parties against insurers.

Looking to the future, the administrative burden that will inevitably be associated with the Brexit negotiation is likely to result in even slower implementation of reforms which – by definition – will have lower political prioroty.

For details of the Implementarion report, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/report-on-the-implementation-of-law-commission-proposals-january-2015-to-january-2016

Written by lwtmp

January 23, 2017 at 11:36 am