Introduction

1.From 28 May 2013all cases (with the exception of paragraph 9 below), sent from the Magistrates?Courts will be subject to a preliminary hearing (PH) in the appropriate CrownCourt. The PH will be heard between ten and fourteen working days from the dateof the Magistrates? Court hearing. Homicide cases will have a PH within 48hours of appearing in the Magistrates' Court. Terrorism cases will have a PHdate set by the Terrorism Case Management Judge.

 

2.This process willsupport the Early Guilty Plea Scheme (EGP) as it will afford an additionalopportunity for the parties to consider the appropriateness of an EGP hearing(EGPH), with active case management from the court.

 

3.Where there willnot be an EGPH, the addition of a PH for all cases gives an opportunity for theCrown Court to grip cases early, setting clear directions and timetables, sothat the parties have a clear understanding of what is expected and by when.

 

4.(A) There are, usually,three circumstances in which the maximum available discount for a guilty pleacan be given (see also R v Caley [2012] EWCA Crim 2821):

 

i.where the casehas proceeded in accordance with paragraph 9 below

ii.where a full factplea is indicated at a PH and sentence then takes place

iii.where at a PH theCourt orders a report and adjourns for that or any other reason to an EGPHhearing

 

(B)In all other circumstances, discount for plea will be reduced pursuant to the SentencingCouncil Guidelines, which should be read in the light of relevant authorities.

 

5.In view of theimportance of an early guilty plea to the defendant, it is vital that there isearly communication between the defence and the prosecution so as to explorethe options for inclusion into the EGP scheme. Further, given the shorttimescales, legal aid applications should be submitted at the earliestopportunity so that, wherever possible, it is in place by the time of the PH.

 

Service of Papers

6.In all cases theCPS will serve on the court and the defence no later than the beginning of theday of the first Magistrates? Court hearing, Initial Details of the ProsecutionCase (IDPC) (Criminal Procedure Rule 21.2); in either-way cases this willinform the decision in relation to allocation of trial. The Magistrates? Court mustforward the IDPC to the Crown Court within four working days of theMagistrates? Court hearing.

 

Cases identified as suitable for EGP scheme at theMagistrates? Court and agreed by the CPS and defence

7.Cases comingbefore the Magistrates? Courts will be reviewed by the CPS to establish whetherthe strength of the case is such that the CPS believes an EGPH is appropriate.Reports (a PSR) can be ordered by the Magistrates? Courts in such agreed cases,but only in line with the guidance at Annex A.[1]

 

8.Where the Defencerequest an EGPH and no PSR is ordered the Magistrates? Court will fix an EGPHin the Crown Court (between ten and fourteen working days time), indicatingthat the case has been identified as an EGPH. No PCMH date will be fixed.

 

9.Where the defencerequest an EGPH and a PSR is ordered, the Magistrates? Court will fix an EGPHat the Crown Court approximately 4 weeks thereafter, as directed locally.

 

Non EGP cases

10.Unless a case isan agreed EGP matter (see above), the Magistrates? Court will simply set a datefor a Preliminary Hearing in the Crown Court at a date between ten and fourteenworking days from the date of the Magistrates? Hearing.

 

Preliminary Hearings

11.The PH will beconducted on the basis of the IDPC served at the Magistrates? Court andforwarded up (see paragraph 6 above).The CPS will bring any additional material to court. A draft Indictment will be brought inappropriate cases.

 

12.The court willhear, inter alia, argument and submissions on the following matters:

 

a.The court willtake any Guilty Pleas offered, will resolve any issues concerning any basis ofplea, and will either sentence the matter or set a timetable for sentence,service of any further prosecution material and service of reports ifappropriate. If a case is likely to be a Guilty Plea, but further evidence isrequired, an adjournment, ordinarily for 2 weeks, for service of this materialwill be granted, subject to representations to the court where more time isrequired.

 

b.Where there areno guilty pleas and the matter is likely to proceed to trial, then the courtwill give orders to take the matter forward, including setting the PCMH and atrial date (taking into account CTL timescales where appropriate) and serviceof the prosecution case. It is important that the prosecution have as muchinformation about witness availability as possible.

 

c.Any bail application. Bail applications should be madeon notice, the defence serving any application on the Court and the prosecutionpreferably at least four working days before the PH, but in any event not lessthan 2 business days before the PH (Criminal Procedure Rule 19.7(2)(c).

 

Timelines

13.The followingtimelines will be in place in all London Courts, unless otherwise agreed on acase by case basis.

 

 

Mags Hearing to PH

PH to Papers / Initial Disclosure

Papers / Initial Disclosure to Defence Case Statement

Defence Case Statement to PCMH

Total

EGP where report requested

4 weeks

 

 

 

 

EGP where no report requested

10-14 working days

 

 

 

 

All other cases

10-14 working days

6 weeks

4 weeks

1 week

13 weeks

 

14.Once it has beenestablished that there is to be no guilty plea and that trial is likely, one ofthe main purposes of the PH is to identify cases which may benefit from eithera shortened or a lengthened timeline.Those cases which require little further preparation may be allocated byagreement an accelerated timeline through to an early trial. Those which will need extended timetablesto allow more extensive than normal preparation (for instance where forensicevidence is sought e.g. cell site etc or where further defendants are to beadded through ongoing investigations) may be granted a lengthenedtimeline. Custody Time Limits will formthe back drop to these time tabling discussions and decisions.

 

Forms

15.The London Courtswill conduct hearings and record the decisions and orders made at hearings onthe forms prescribed by the Criminal Procedure Rules and set out in theConsolidated Practice Direction.These are available online and will be available in courtrooms in hardcopy format. The forms are to beready for use, e.g. advocates will have completed the appropriate parts of theform before the start of a hearing.

 

PreliminaryHearing

CrimPRPart 3 Crown Court Preliminary Hearing (PDF 210.6kb. 4 pages)

PCMH

CrimPRPart 3 - Plea & Case Management Hearing (PCMH) form (PDF 288kb. 12 pages)

 

Case readiness checks

16.Each court willdecide in consultation with its appropriate CPS Unit and defence community whatmix of Trial readiness measures to employ.Each court will decide when and which cases are called into court for aPre-trial Readiness Hearing (PTR). The prosecution and courts are expected toattend case progression meetings, able to make progress on cases, in line withthe agreed procedures.

 

Annexes

Annex A: Guidance on the needfor reports and on ensuring their timely production

Annex B: Sentence Reductions

Annex C: Observations oncommunication between the parties

Annex A to the London Crown Courts Preliminary Hearing andEarly Guilty Plea Protocol

Guidance on the need for reports and onensuring their timely production

This guidance should beconsidered at magistrates and crown courts when ordering an EGP hearing.

 

2. The following questions may assist thedecision process.

  • Is a report necessary at all?
  • If a report is necessary should it be a PSR or an FDR?
  • If a report is necessary has there been a PSR or FDR on this Defendant in the last 12 months?
  • If there has been any report in the last twelve months is there any need for either a fresh report or and update?

 

3. To assist in answering these questions thefollowing factors are set out.

a. Wherever a Report has been written within the last 12 months, it willusually be appropriate to ask for a copy to be available.

 

b. Where the Defendant has completed a previous prison sentence of morethan 1 year within the previous 12 months, it may be appropriate to ask for anFDR or stand-down report to consider response to post-release supervision.

 

It will usually be appropriate to order a reportwhere:

(In some of these cases, a recent report may besufficient)

  • The Defendant is 17 and under
  • The Defendant is under 21 and is a first time offender/has not served a prison sentence
  • The Defendant falls to be assessed for "dangerousness? (Schedule 15 cases)

 

It will not usually be appropriate to order a reportin the cases where:

  • The Defence have asked for report to assist in determining the "length of sentence?
  • Supply of Class A offences
  • False passport/ID docs
  • 3rd Strike Burglary
  • Cultivation of Cannabis
  • Offences in Breach of a Suspended Sentence Order where a Breach Report is available
  • High Level Frauds (in excess of £100K)
  • "Custody inevitable? cases where dangerousness is not a consideration and Defendant is not under 18 (cf "length of sentence? cases)

 

4. The timely preparation of reports, whenreports are essential, is central to the EGP scheme. If ordered reports are not available at EGPhearing much of the benefit of the system is lost. Accordingly, when Magistrates? Courtsconsider the need for reports they should record their decision as"PSR"or "FDR" or "No Report?. This will ensure, at later hearings, that itis clear that the court did indeed consider the need for a report and what itsdecision was. In like manner CPS andDefence should assume a duty to assist the magistrates by ensuring that thedecision is addressed and should note their files. Where a report has been ordered, Defencesolicitors should be alert to check with and ensure that Probation has indeedbeen made aware of the need for the report and that they have the Defendantsdetails. Solicitors will also be awareof the ability to make representations to the appropriate Crown Court in anyparticular case where a decision has been made that no report is required orwhere court has not been asked to make such a decision.


Annex B to the London Crown Courts Preliminary Hearing andEarly Guilty Plea Protocol

Sentence Reductions

As a result of theintroduction of the EGP scheme the SentencingGuidelines Council Definitive Guideline for "Reduction in Sentence For a GuiltyPlea? (hereafter the Guideline) will be applied as follows:

(i)Any defendant whodoes not plead guilty at the EGP hearing or who cancels an EGP hearing but whopleads guilty at a later hearing will not receive maximum credit for that Pleaunless a successful submission is made that the EGP hearing was not the firstreasonable opportunity for the defendant to have pleaded guilty.

(ii)There is apresumption that a plea of guilty at the EGP hearing is the first reasonableopportunity to enter a guilty plea and a one third reduction in sentence. Cases that are indicated as guilty pleaseither at the sending hearing or PH will qualify for one third reduction.

(iii)The one thirdreduction may be itself be reduced to 20% where Para5.2 to 5.5 of the Guideline applies (The "overwhelming prosecutioncase" provision).

(iv)The one thirdreduction may be affected by the considerations set out in Annex 1 of theGuideline. This Annex gives guidance asto identifying the "first reasonable opportunity for the defendant to haveindicated a willingness to plead guilty?, but must now be read in the light of R v Caley [2012] EWCA Crim 2821.

(v)A plea ofguilty at PCMH will receive a reduction of 25%. Later pleas of guilty will have lesserreduction see the Guidelines Paras. 4.1 to 4.3.

 

 

Annex C to the London Crown Courts Preliminary Hearing andEarly Guilty Plea Protocol

Observations on communications betweenthe parties

Theexperience of the EGP pilots is that early communication between the defenceand CPS is paramount. Thereafter, communications between all parties, includingprobation and the courts should be timely and, wherever possible, thoseindividuals with responsibility for making progress should be identified at anearly stage and easily contactable. Where individuals are not named, there mustbe robust methods of communication in place, for example email inboxes must bemonitored regularly and contact numbers kept up to date.

 

Theuse of post, DX and to a lesser extent fax, requires post to be collected andsorted, for administrators to link correspondence to files and for files to beallocated for consideration of the correspondence. Letters are more formal sotake longer to draft and there is a lack of certainty of receipt whichencourages duplicate correspondence to be sent. Duplicate correspondence also hasto be linked and processed, wasting finite resources and thus slowing the processstill further. In EGP cases, where timetables are demanding, slow, wasteful orineffective communications will impede the scheme.

 

TheCPS will provide contact details at an early stage so that the defence candiscuss the case prior to the PH taking place. The CPS will also allocate anoffice-based Crown Advocate full-time to EGP cases. The most effective way ofensuring that EGP cases are identified, that any essential evidence tofacilitate a plea is gathered and that any proposed bases of pleas are consideredis for the defence to speak direct to the Crown Advocate by telephone.

 

Ifthe Crown Advocate cannot be contacted and/or where an audit trail is necessarythe CPS would ask that secure emailis used. Emails should be marked withthe defendant?s name, the CPS URN and ?Early Guilty Plea? in the subject title.Please note that agreement to use secure email will not be taken as agreementto receive electronic papers.

 

Therelevant telephone numbers and email addresses are as follows:

XX Crown Court EGP scheme:

 

EGPCPS Crown Advocate telephone: 020

CPS SEM: (xxx location) cases: XX.digital@cps.gsi.gov.uk

CPS SEM: (xxx location) cases: XX.Digital@cps.gsi.gov.uk

 


London Probation Trust CCLO Tel: 020Fax: 020
EGPRequestsXXCC@London.Probation.gsi.gov.uk

XXCC case progressiontelephone: 020

XX CC case progression SEM: caseprogression@XX.crowncourt.gsi.gov.uk

 


[1] See s.156 CJA 2003.

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