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#OpCotton ruling reversed

The Court of Appeal has reversed the decision by His Honour Judge Leonard QC to stay the indictment in Operation Cotton case as an abuse of the court’s process. In a landmark ruling, His Honour Judge Leonard QC stayed the indictment against Mr Crawley, who is represented by Brett Wilson LLP, on 1 May after ruling that there was no realistic prospect of the defendants securing advocates as a result of the dispute between the Bar and the Ministry of Justice over funding cuts to VHCC cases. In overturning the decision, the Court of Appeal in R v Crawley and ors, presided over by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division (Sir Brian Leveson) who gave the judgment, pointed to the “strong public interest in the prosecution of crime” and described a stay of proceedings as a “remedy of last resort”. The Court ruled that for Judge Leonard to conclude that the State has violated the process of the Court is “quite simply wrong as a matter of principle”. The Court of Appeal concluded that “this ruling does involve errors of law or principle and, in any event, was not reasonable in the sense that a number of conclusions reached were not reasonably open to him based on the evidence and, in any event, his ultimate finding did not constitute a reasonable exercise of the discretion available to him. Pursuant to section 66(1) and (2) of the Act, the ruling is reversed and we order that the proceedings on this indictment be resumed in the Crown Court at Southwark”. However, the Court did go on to say the following (para 56 et seq) “the criminal justice system in this country requires the highest quality advocates both to prosecute and to defend those accused of crime: in addition, they are potential judges of the future. The better the advocates, the easier it is to concentrate on the real issues in the case, the more expeditious the hearing and the better the prospect of true verdicts according to the evidence. Poor quality advocates fail to take points of potential significance, or take them badly, leading to confusion and, in turn, appeals, and even more serious, leading to potential miscarriages of justice. We have no doubt that it is critical that there remains a thriving cadre of advocates capable of undertaking all types of publicly funded work, developing their skills from the straightforward work until they are able to undertake the most complex. In those circumstances, it is of fundamental importance that the MOJ led by the Lord Chancellor and the professions continue to try to resolve the impasse that presently stands in the way of the delivery of justice in the most complex of cases: this will require effort on both sides. The maintenance of a criminal justice system of which we can be proud depends on a sensible resolution of the issues that have arisen”.


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