Crystal Balls!

“See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil…” about the CJS that is. Oh dear. CrimeBarrister nails it yet again. I had thought after the ignominious demise of “Dame” Ursula Brennan that this brand of civil service obfuscation night just be a thing of the past. How naively trusting I was.

My Mid Life Crisis

Realising that I apparently now had psychic powers when it came to the criminal justice system (see my last blog, Guilty Pleasures?) took some getting used to. But happily it seems that I am not alone.

You will no doubt be pleased and relieved to hear that the future of the CJS is in the safe hands of the trio of Richard Heaton, Alison Saunders and Natalie Ceeney. They are, respectively, the Permanent Secretary of the MOJ (reported salary: between £175,000 and £179,999 – source data.gov.uk here), the Director of Public Prosecutions (reported salary: £205,000 – source The Telegraph here), and the Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (reported salary: between £180,000 and £184,999 – source Gov.uk here).

So, with a combined annual income of getting on for three quarters of a million pounds, should us hardworking taxpayers have a hope that between them they…

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Guilty Pleasures?

Why is it that it is always left to the voice of the junior “coalface” Bar to tell it like it really is?

This is a courageous and bitingly accurate critique of a speech that those of us who practise daily in the Criminal Courts will characterise as “wildly inaccurate,” because we are not prone to using appropriate profanities on social media, are we?

I sincerely hope the inaccuracies stem from misinformation provided to the SPJ by those with a desire to impress, be it HMCTS, or some of whichever judges have been tasked to “pilot” BCM. (For “Pilot” read “Railroad, obvs.”)

Defendants do not give in with a shrug, very often it is a result of a bullying judge who insists that a plea be taken at PTPH, no matter how slim the bundle of material given to the defence may be. (And I shall probably find myself in contempt of court if any more of them utter that hackneyed inanity, “your client knows what he’s done.”). There have been more than several examples of such judges putting such cases back to the end of the list, sometimes until 7pm or later, so that counsel can “take further instructions” or “give proper advice,” on a plea of guilty. In one case recently, a defendant pleaded guilty in the Mags Court to a Class A drug importation offence, when it turned out he had a perfectly good defence.

I personally have seen examples of such bullying. I suspect the SPJ has not.

And what of the MG5, or Case Summary, on which such instructions are ordered to be taken, and plea advice given? One example in particular springs to mind of a recent case where the OIC had summarised the interview as containing full admissions. Errrr, no. In fact it was a No Comment interview. Not surprisingly, the judge exerted heavy pressure on Defence Counsel to extract a plea.

The iniquity of this is obvious. There are very many entirely honest and professional police officers in this world, but there are one or two who might just take advantage of this situation if it becomes commonly known that such pressure is to be exerted on the basis of the content of an MG5 which the defence have no opportunity of checking without served evidence.

The SPJ thinks that the coining of the phrase “Pressure to Plead Hearing” is a jolly wheeze. No it isn’t. It is a bitterly ironic warning of just what exactly is going on because it is a very accurate description of what can and does happen.

So I take my wig off To @CrimBarrister, and will happily act as second when the dooks go up.

That is of course unless our representative bodies get in there first, as they should be doing, and telling the SPJ to his face just exactly how life is in the real, and not the parallel, universe.

To help them do that, you can get off your own bottoms and send your own examples direct to the CBA for starters. Don’t wait for someone else to do it, because you’ll only have yourself to blame if nobody succeeds in removing the scales from the SPJ’s eyes.

My Mid Life Crisis

When I said I had returned refreshed from the Two Fingers To 50 Tour (see previous blogs), one thing I hadn’t expected was to develop psychic powers while I was away.

fortune-teller clipartlord.com

(Cartoon by the marvellous Clipart: see more of their ace stuff at http://www.clipart.com here.)

Because, as I exposed and predicted in February’s Does Your Client Plead Guilty, Very Guilty Or Extremely Guilty?, the new Better Case Management (and Digital Case System) which is sending criminal justice into meltdown has been specifically engineered to ensure that more accused people are ‘encouraged’ to plead guilty.

Now, those of us working at the system’s coalface had long suspected this. Not for nothing did we joke that the new PTPH was called a Pressure To Plead Hearing. We were told we were just being paranoid. But the truth has now been exposed in a speech given by the Senior Presiding Judge, Lord…

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Assisting the Court

“You may be representing the prosecution but you are first and foremost an agent of justice. That may sound pompous. That may sound an unrealistic ideal. When it comes to sentence, it should be at the forefront of the mind of the prosecution advocate. “

A view from the North

When I was in my pupillage I witnessed an exchange between my pupil master and a Judge. My pupil master was prosecuting a sentence. The Judge asked him to identify the features of the offence that aggravated the sentence. My pupil master declined and instead indicated that he was in a position to identify those features which were capable of aggravating the sentence, whether they in fact aggravated the position was a matter for the Court. The Judge was bad tempered, he responded that “if Counsel was not prepared to help me by identifying which features did aggravate the sentence then you may as well sit down”. My pupil master resumed his seat.

I learnt many valuable lessons in pupillage, not the least of which were some of the best places for lunch near to each of the courts on circuit. The exchange above was one such valuable lesson. Sentence…

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