My final message this year, like many magazine subscriptions, is a bumper Christmas edition.
Our response to the COVID Operating Hours Consultation:
Our response to the consultation can be found here LCCSA - COH response. 121220 . The likely discriminatory impact of these proposals is not offset by any hoped for benefits of efficiency. The short and flawed pilot failed to provide a case for this scheme significantly reducing the backlog, as only very short cases or those likely to crack were used in the pilot courts. We note the change in the name of the scheme from Flexible Operating Hours, that does not prevent us from recalling how the MOJ tried to introduce this idea in 2017 for no compelling reason other than to ‘sweat’ the much reduced court estate. The further encroachment into our free time will not be temporary nor will it be compensated. We urge members to resist the proposals should they be developed further in the new year.
Inner London Crown Court at the RCJ:
As proof that more court rooms can instead be used for Crown Court recovery please find a letter RCJ - Stakeholder Letter - 21.12.20 - v.2 introducing two trial courts hosting Inner London cases at the RCJ from 11/1/2021.
CLAR 2: Independent Review:
Today the MOJ announced the Chair of the Review would be Sir Christopher Bellamy QC https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/independent-review-of-criminal-legal-aid . Failing to select someone with first-hand experience of life in criminal practice is, in our view, an opportunity missed but we hope Sir Christopher will approach his task with an open mind and show he is willing to listen to our case for significant investment. An expert panel is still to be selected, the LCCSA has proposed candidates for appointment and the Ministry has promised to ensure it is representative.
CLAR 1 pre-charge engagement:
Though CLAR 2 is beginning, CLAR 1 has not completed. Payments for pre-charge engagement work were left out, pending the AG’s disclosure review. Please consider and respond to the consultation document clar-remuneration-pre-charge-engagement-condoc 1 the deadline for which is 25/1/2021. The LCCSA will be responding in due course and would welcome members feedback, please email email@example.com and use Pre-Charge Engagement in the subject line.
COVID Safe Practice in Courts:
In recent court user meetings, it was relayed that CPS advocate rooms are meant to be closed to other organisations to enhance social distancing. To enable pre-hearing discussions, it is expected that prosecutors arrive in court 30 minutes before hearings and conduct them in the larger space of the court rooms. I understand this has been communicated internally within the CPS. I have not observed this in my court attendances recently and felt it important to share these expectations with members. Please remember to wear at a mask at all times in court buildings, save during advocacy.
The announcement of Tier 4 measures on Saturday was disheartening and many of you will be forced to forego important family reunions. We will not get the break we were hoping for. If you know this will leave colleagues alone on Christmas Day, why not give them a call? But please, don’t talk shop. Rest assured the LCCSA social events calendar will resume as soon the rules permit. Many things are touted to be changed forever by the pandemic, but the chance for our members to meet, eat and drink together will not be one of them. Thank you for renewing your membership and continuing to support the Association.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year.