The London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association
The LSC has acknowledged concerns raised regarding keeping the Criminal Justice system running smoothly during the period of the Olympic Games & Paralympics. HMCTS are planning on listing fast tracked magistrates court trials for Olympic offences cases in as little as 7 days, whilst Crown Court cases may be heard within 8 days (custody cases) or 14 days (bail cases).
The following Guidance note is produced by the LSC in partnership with HMCTS and has been provided to LSC staff, Court staff, Solicitors (via the Law Society, LCCSA and directly from the LSC) and the Judiciary.
Reminder regarding current arrangements:
Supplementary guidance summary:
Identification/Prioritisation - Applications will need to be marked “Olympic Fast Track” on the front of the form (by the solicitor or their representative) to enable prioritisation at the Court and on any Court referral form to the National Courts Team at the LSC
Evidence provision – For Olympic Fast Track cases we will accept faxed evidence without sight of the originals to speed up the ability of the solicitor to assist the defendant to comply with these relaxed requirements – we do not consider it is unreasonable to expect the significant majority to be able to contact their country of origin and obtain such evidence by fax. It has also been agreed that for these types of cases, by prior arrangement with the court, evidence may be scanned and e-mailed. This is agreed on the basis that sufficient identification information must be included to enable the evidence to be tied up with a submitted application and must be sent through Secure E-mail (CJSM)
Partner’s signature provision – where the defendant is bailed so the partner’s signature is still required, if the matter is an Olympic Fast Track case the partner’s signature may be obtained by fax (the original need not follow) which will expedite the submission of completed applications. This temporary provision applies if the partner is abroad or if the partner is at a distance within the UK.
Escalation Route – Where there are particular difficulties with (obtaining evidence for) an Olympic fast track case solicitors will be able to contact the NCT direct to discuss the problem, the available options and agree a way forward to get a funding decision. There will be number of people who have authority to make these decisions.
Document Translation - Any applications where evidence requires translation - evidence should be submitted with the application. HMCTS will then be able to fax to the NCT who will interpret the evidence using a national network of LSC staff who can advise on different languages or utilise translation websites if no staff member has the relevant expertise.
Expedited Fails – where it appears the defendant is not going to be eligible and the application has been submitted without evidence, rather than reject back to the solicitor, we will process those without evidence so that solicitors have a refusal decision more quickly. This will enable solicitors to go on to discuss private arrangements with their clients. We have developed a one page ready reckoner (Annex B) to assist in determining what level employed / self employed income it is worth obtaining faxed evidence for in bailed cases.
Expedited Referrals – On borderline referrals courts should ring NCT or fax NCT for advice in order to minimise those applications requiring physical transfer. For Olympic Fast Track cases where the hearing is imminent and a decision remains outstanding applications may be faxed by the court to the NCT for a decision or may be pulled out of the work allocation and prioritised to avoid adjournments / delay
Minimising Rejects – HMCTS and the LSC will wherever possible avoid rejecting a legal aid application for an Olympic Fast Track case, to avoid the associated delay in posting/ re-submission. Depending on the nature of the application and what is missing, this may mean for example a telephone call to a solicitors office to obtain extra information. It is very important that the solicitors responsible give us fully completed forms and also respond to any requests via telephone as quickly as possible.