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Leveson’s Efficiency Review: Criminal Courts are ‘lagging significantly behind modern practices’

Nick Brett, Partner and criminal defence solicitor at Brett Wilson LLP gives an overview of the Leveson’s Efficiency Review: Criminal Courts are ‘lagging significantly behind modern practices’

In his Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings published this month Sir Brian Leveson makes a number of recommendations as to how criminal cases can be streamlined thereby reducing the costs of such proceedings for all public bodies. He proposes that virtual hearings (by email or video) should be better utilised for pre-trial and case management hearings and lists eight essential conditions that must be met for remote hearings (paragraph 47 of the Review). Further proposals are made which support better ‘case ownership’ by having one person in the Police, CPS and Defence responsible for the conduct of the case together with a recommendation that the Criminal Procedure Rules should make it clear that parties are under a duty to engage at the first available opportunity. During the course of conducting the Review Leveson noted a theme that too many cases are being sent unnecessarily to the Crown Court caused by poor charging decisions which impact upon the allocation of cases.   A number of recommendations are made at paragraphs 77-82 of the Review including the Defence to indicate at the outset whether Crown Court trial is to be elected; a more robust approach by Magistrates to try all either-way offences unless it is likely that their sentencing powers will be insufficient; better training for individuals responsible for charging decisions.

Whilst noting that it is not possible to quantify the amount of savings that could be made by any of his recommendations Leveson reiterates what he said in R v Crawley [2014] EWCA Crim 1028 (in which Brett Wilson LLP acted for the first Respondent) that “The criminal justice system in this country requires the highest quality advocates to prosecute and to defend those accused of crime…” and that a criminal justice system that is professionally staffed and effective is critical to our democratic society.

A full copy of the report can be found here.



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