Friday 13 April 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Criminal solicitors should tell the court when clients fail to co-operate with them, to avoid the risk of breaching their duty to the court, the Law Society has advised.
Chancery Lane has issued an updated practice note setting out the duties and burdens affecting solicitors arising from the Criminal Procedure Rules 2011 (CPR).
The note reminds solicitors of the duty under rule 1.2 to 'at once inform the court and all parties of any significant failure to take any procedural step required' by the rules, any practice direction or court order. 'When something goes wrong because of a failure of a defendant to co-operate with you, the court should be made aware of this and if you fail to keep the court informed, you risk breaching your duty to the court under the provision of the rules,' it says.
The revised note, which represents advice on good practice, not legal advice, was issued following the Court of Appeal's decision in R v SVS Solicitors  EWCA Crim 319. In that case, the court upheld a wasted costs order against a solicitor at a Buckinghamshire law firm who had failed to give reasons for opposing a hearsay notice after the defendant had failed to give timely instructions.
The firm applied for permission to appeal the decision, but as there is no appeal to the Supreme Court in relation to wasted costs orders, it says it is now considering other routes.
Chair of the Society's criminal law committee Richard Atkinson said: 'Solicitors must be aware that their obligations to the court have clearly increased under the CPR vis-a-vis their client. They should therefore be particularly mindful of the rules and the need to take appropriate steps to ensure they cannot be criticised for failure to comply.'
Read the full practice note.