Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Review of the work of enforcement agents (bailiffs)

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Legislative changes to the rules regulation the work of debt enforcement agents were introduced in 2014. They were the subject of an initial post-implementation review in 2015. The Government has announced (25 November 2018) a second post-implementation review to see what further changes may be needed to the regulatory framework.

The Government is interested in hearing from people who have been contacted by enforcement agents: enforcement agents, creditors, debt advisers, the judiciary and anybody else with experience of working with enforcement agents.

The Consultation runs until February 2019. For details see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-enforcement-agent-bailiff-reforms-call-for-evidence.

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Written by lwtmp

November 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme

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When the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme was originally introduced in 1964, there was a rule that applicants were not entitled to compensation if they were living with their assailant as members of the same family at the time of the incident.

The reasons for the rule were, broadly, difficulties with evidence in such cases, and a wish to ensure that offenders did not benefit from compensation paid to the victim who they were living with. The rule applied to all victims of abuse inflicted by a family member living under the same roof; this included physical as well as sexual abuse.

The rule was amended in 1979 to apply to adults only. Under the revised rule applicants could still be refused compensation if at the time of the incident they were adults living with the assailant as members of the same family, unless they no longer lived together and were unlikely to do so again. The amended rule gave CICA discretion to consider what had happened after the incident taking place, which  significantly reduced the number of applicants who were refused under this amended rule. The amended rule was, however, not retrospective.

In July 2018 the Court of Appeal found that the pre-1979 rule unlawfully discriminated against an applicant who had suffered injury before the 1979 changes.

The government has decided to not appeal this ruling. Instead, it confirmed it would consult on changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

In September 2018, the Government announced that it was launching a review that will look at concerns around the eligibility rules of the scheme, the sustainability of the scheme and the affordability of any changes to be made. The review will also enable the government to take full account of recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

More specifically, the review will look at issues including:

  • time limits for applications – the scheme’s time limit requires that applications be made by a person over 18 as soon as practicable and no later than 2 years after the date of the incident. It is suggested that victims of child sex abuse disproportionately delay reporting such crimes and applications for compensation, and therefore miss out on compensation.
  • the ‘same roof’ rule – we will remove the pre-1979 rule and we will consider further changes to the remaining ‘same roof’ rule and previous failed applications.
  • unspent convictions – the scheme automatically excludes an award if the applicant has an unspent conviction which resulted in a specified sentence (custodial sentence, community order or youth rehabilitation order). It is suggested the rules disproportionately impact vulnerable victims of child sex abuse who may have offended in response to being abused/exploited/groomed.
  • crime of violence– the scheme sets out what constitutes a crime of violence for the purposes of assessing entitlement to compensation. It is suggested that this definition should be broadened to include sexual exploitative behaviour, such as grooming.
  • terrorism – the terrorist attacks of last year left people with serious life changing injuries and brought to light questions about the suitability of the scheme in providing support to victims of terrorism. The review will consider and clarify the eligibility, entitlement and amount of compensation to be awarded. This will build on the roll-out of the ground-breaking Victims of Terrorism Unit last year, to help ensure the best possible support.

The intention is that the review will be completed sometime in 2019, with change following thereafter. There is no hint that the review will expand the scope of the types of injury for which compensation can be claimed.

Details of the review can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/justice-secretary-announces-victim-compensation-scheme-review-scraps-unfair-rule

 

 

Written by lwtmp

November 29, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Creating a Sentencing Code: proposals from the Law Commission

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Way back in May 2016 I noted the publication of a Consultation by the Law Commission on the creation of a single code of law on sentencing for criminal offences. Well, the outcome of that consultation is now published. It is a great law reform effort and one that deserves to be implemented at the earliest opportunity.

To remind readers, the current law is so complicated that judges frequently get their sentencing decisions wrong. As the Commission itself noted:

The current law of sentencing is inefficient and lacks transparency. The law is incredibly complex and difficult to understand even for experienced judges and lawyers.

It is spread across a huge number of statutes, and is frequently amended. Worse, amendments are brought into force at different times for different cases. The result of this is that there are multiple versions of the law that could apply to any given case.

This makes it difficult, if not impossible at times, for practitioners and the courts to understand what the present law of sentencing procedure actually is.

This leads to delays, costly appeals and unlawful sentences.

There is near unanimity from legal practitioners, judges and academic lawyers that the law in this area is in urgent need of reform.

A new Sentencing Code has three key benefits:

  • it makes the law simpler and easier to use;
  • it increases public confidence in the criminal justice system; and
  • it increases the efficiency of the sentencing process.

The benefits claimed for the new code are that it would:

  • help stop unlawful sentences by providing a single reference point for the law of sentencing, simplify many complex provisions and remove the need to refer to historic legislation;

  • save up to £256 million over the next decade by avoiding unnecessary appeals and reducing delays in sentencing clogging up the court system;

  • rewrite the law in modern language, improving public confidence and allowing non-lawyers to understand sentencing more easily;

  • remove the unnecessary layers of historic legislation; and

  • allow judges to use the modern sentencing powers for both current and historic cases, making cases simpler to deal with and ensuring justice is better served.

It is hoped that the Sentencing Code could be enacted as a Consolidation Bill which would take up far less Parliamentary time than a normal bill. Progress ought to be made on this during 2019, if the political will is there.

For further information see https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/sentencing-code/ which provides links to the Report and the Draft Code

 

 

 

Written by lwtmp

November 27, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Chapter 5

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Tribunal case workers – who they are and what they do

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One aspect of the Tribunals Reform programme that has not had that much attention is the role of Tribunals Caseworkers (TCWs). The idea of tribunals employing caseworkers who could undertake some of the more routine work of the tribunals judiciary is one that has been around for some time. (Indeed it builds on the use of Registrars in other court contexts, who have long been part of the legal system.) But their use in tribunals  is now becoming more widespread as HMCTS seeks to ensure that the tribunals work as cost effectively and as efficiently as possible – key objectives for the reform programme.

The first edition of Tribunals Journal 2018, that was published earlier this year, carries an interesting collection of short articles from a number of Caseworkers, working in different tribunals contexts – including, social security, employment, and special educational needs.

One feature of their descriptions of their work is the variety of things that they are asked to do. They also provide those undertaking the role with the opportunity to acquire new skils and to enhance their career opportunities within the Tribunals service.

See further https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/tribunals-journal-edition1-2018-v2.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Written by lwtmp

November 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm

What does the Criminal Cases Review Commission do?

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It is hard to convey in print how the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) goes about its work. It has in recent months been trying to develop new ways of informing people – in particular prisoners – how it goes about its Review processes.

It has launched a YouTube channel which currently hosts two short films –

  1. “Not the end of the Road” directed at young prisoners;
  2. “Miscarriage of Justice – A survivor’s story” – a more general film aimed at informing prisoners and their families about how the CCRC work.

Links to both these films can be found on the CCRC’s website at https://ccrc.gov.uk/

 

Written by lwtmp

November 22, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Public Legal Education: the Solicitor General’s vision

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In the past, the Attorney-General tried to promote the cause of Public Legal Education. This role seems now to have been delegated to the Solicitor-General.

In October 2018, the current post-holder, Robert Buckland MP launched a new ‘vision’ to which he hoped interested organisations would sign up.

The Press Release stated:

The statement creates a shared vision for the PLE community to aspire to which will help drive forward legal education initiatives. The statement reveals 7 goals for where PLE might be in 10 years’ time.

The goals are:

  1. PLE will be supported by a robust evidence base, showing what the need is and what works best.

  2. PLE will be of high quality, maintained to ensure that it remains accurate and accessible and useful for the people who need it.

  3. PLE will be universal and reach across all demographics, prioritising children, young adults and vulnerable groups

  4. PLE will be scaled up through delivery by the legal community

  5. PLE will harness technology and be delivered through innovative methods, both on and offline

  6. PLE will be embeded into public services and government departments

  7. PLE will be understood as beneficial and utlised by other sectors

Whether much can be achieved without additional investment in the development of PLE must be a moot point, but I suppose that a statement such as this is better than nothing. The statement was launched at an event organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Public Legal Education and Pro Bono legal work.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/our-vision-for-legal-education

Written by lwtmp

November 21, 2018 at 3:51 pm

What happened to the Lammy Review? Tackling racial disparity in the criminal justice system

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The Lammy Review on the treatment and outcomes of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system was published in autumn 2017 (noted in this blog in September 2017). At the same time, the Government  had launched its Race Disparity Audit – the first results from which were also published in 2017.

A year on, in October 2018, the Ministry of Justice has published a policy paper on tackling racial disparity in the criminal justice system. It summarises both what has been done and how new developments may be taken forward.

The Press Release states, in part:

There is an undeniable over-representation of ethnic minorities within CJS which [the Government is] determined to challenge and change. For the Criminal Justice System to be viewed as effective and fair it needs the trust, confidence and engagement of citizens from all communities.

[This] update highlights progress across different parts of CJS, from the early stages of the system to court, prison and probation. It also explores cross-cutting work on areas such as data. The update sets out next steps and [the Government’s] continued commitment to progress in this area.

Much of the emphasis in the policy statement is on the need to get better data. But Lammy also recommended some procedural changes. One example is that he advocated for wider use of a ‘deferred prosecution’ model in which a person accused of committing an eligible crime is given an opportunity to complete specified conditions (for example rehabilitative activity, reparation to the victim and/or unpaid work) instead of being prosecuted. This could be done without being required to admit guilt.
Interim results from existing trials of similar approaches (Operation Turning Point in the
West Midlands, Operation Checkpoint in Durham) show promise for this approach to
reduce re-offending as well as achieving victim satisfaction and cost savings. This  approach also has potential to reduce disproportionality since Lammy notes that BAME
defendants are consistently more likely to plead not guilty and so face more punitive
outcomes.
The Government states that it needs further evidence  before any decision can be made to promote wider use of this model –  particularly on outcomes for BAME participants and the impact of not requiring a guilt admission.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice has partnered with police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London to develop pilots of this model in 4 areas: London (North West Borough Command Unit), Surrey, Cumbria and West Yorkshire. We are working with these areas as well as national partners on the pilot design and sharing best practice around implementation and data collection. Although ethnicity is not a selection criterion for being offered a ‘deferred prosecution’, areas will monitor this with the aim of understanding any impact on disproportionality. We expect pilots to go live in police areas during 2019. All of the pilot areas propose to include youth.

This work fits in with the Government’s aims for youth of intervening early to divert individuals from the CJS and secure the best outcomes for BAME youth.
In addition, other ‘deferred prosecution’ initiatives are under consideration by police, inspired by this Lammy recommendation. This includes initiatives focused on specific cohorts of female offenders or drugs offences.
The Government will share insights and resources from its work with these areas,
and if they come to fruition the results will be of interest.

The Government has also decided to publish regular updates to the facts and figures relating to ethnicity. These are prepared by, the Ethnicity Facts and Figures service, part of a unit established in the Cabinet Office. The data relate to many aspects of life in the UK, including crime and the criminal justice system.

For the policy statement from the Ministry of Justice, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-racial-disparity-in-the-criminal-justice-system-2018

Data from the Ethnicity Facts and Figures Service  are at https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/ from which there are links to ‘Crime Justice and the Law’.

Written by lwtmp

November 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm