Call for action
At the start of this week in response to the Mayor’s announcement of a major incident I wrote to HMCTS London region with a call for action, which was published on Tuesday. I have received their response, which can be found HERE
While we welcome the promise to reduce volumes, enhance the use of CVP and reinforce compliance this is not the action we called for. Next week I will attend London and National magistrates’ courts working groups to renew courts for more drastic measures in the short term.
Thank you to those who responded to my call for evidence on unsafe practice, which I have shared. These examples will be passed on to local court managers. This is crucial to show the gap between the modelling for safe practice and the reality on the ground. The form is still open https://forms.gle/DTY8Dc3GNdTSovH69] and it is important that we continue to provide evidence over the next fortnight.
Many are rightly raising concerns that court users are not distancing or wearing masks. This does not affect only one group, and so can I ask you all to be models of best practice so that it cannot be said we are part of the problem.
Harrow CC PTPHs
From next week, for a short period, Harrow will announce via the DCS that Defendants need not attend in person and advocates should continue to apply to participate via CVP. Pleas will be expected to be indicated, usual PTPH timetabling will take place but arraignment delayed for many months. Provided a plea is indicated in writing this will still entitle you to claim the interim cracked trial fee https://www.gov.uk/guidance/financial-relief-for-legal-aid-practitioners#crown-court . This is a sign that local decisions can and are being taken to respond to the emergency and other courts may follow this example.
Social Media Evidence Survey
This research is timely and relevant, particularly as CLAR2 will have to assess the impact of digital evidence on our workloads and how this work is inadequately recognised or funded for legally aided defence work. Please take a few moments to complete it, the deadline is the 22nd January. LINK - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DFSMLawyersurvey
HMP Thameside video facilities
The video conference centre facilities at HMP Thameside will open on Monday the 18th of January 2021. There will be 15 video endpoints which are primarily allocated as 5 courtrooms, 5 preconference rooms, 4 general conference rooms and 1 parole room however these are still multi-purpose and an increase from the current provision of 3 courts, 2 pre-conference rooms and 2 conference rooms.