Jury service guidelines remove the need to complete jury service for some people…

Tuesday 22 March 2005 at 10:19 pm | In News | Post Comment

Section 321 Criminal Justice Act 2003 means that the normal presumption is that everyone, unless mentally disordered or disqualified, is required to perform jury service when summoned to do so. This has resulted in an increase in the number of jurors with professional and public service commitments. Therefore the Lord Chief Justice has issued guidelines that considerably weaken the effect of the legislation.
For example; where a juror unexpectedly finds him or herself in difficult professional or personal circumstances perhaps a parent whose childcare arrangements unexpectedly fail or a worker who is engaged in the provision of services the need for which can be critical or Member of Parliament who has deferred their jury service to an apparently more convenient time, but is unexpectedly called back to work for a very important reason – may be excused jury service.

We believe that the intelligent articulate groups who were the target of the legislation will now be able to escape jury service in much the same way as they did before the Act. The need for these guidelines indicates that the legislation was thoughtless and bungled.

Guidelines here.

Constitutional Reform Bill clears the final hurdle and awaits Royal Assent

Tuesday 22 March 2005 at 9:28 pm | In News | Post Comment

The Constitutional Reform Bill addresses four important areas:
Judicial independence:
For the first time, the Bill enshrines in law a duty on government ministers to uphold the independence of the judiciary. They will be specifically barred from trying to influence judicial decisions through any special access to judges. Reforming the Lord Chancellor:
The Bill reforms the post of Lord Chancellor, transferring his judicial functions to President of the Courts of England and Wales. The Lord Chief Justice, currently Lord Woolf, will become President of the Courts of England and Wales. He will be responsible for the training, guidance and deployment of judges. He will also represent the views of the judiciary of England and Wales to Parliament and ministers.
Supreme Court:
The Bill also establishes a new, independent Supreme Court, separate from the House of Lords with its own independent appointments system, its own staff and budget and, ultimately, its own building.
Judicial Appointments Commission:
The Bill will establish an independent Commission, responsible for selecting candidates to recommend for judicial appointment to the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. This will ensure that while merit will remain the sole criterion for appointment, the appointments system will be placed on a fully modern, open and transparent basis.

Lord Justice Hooper’s puppy, Nelson did his best to destroy all the work done by a committee that produced the protocol and three new practice directions concerning control and management of heavy fraud and other complex criminal cases by eating the disc containing the only copy of critical material

Tuesday 22 March 2005 at 8:56 pm | In News | Post Comment

Nevertheless, the Lord Chief Justice was able to hand down the protocol and directions today.

Codification of procedure
The protocol and directions are the first step in the creation of a criminal procedural code. They make procedure rules more readily accessible than before. They bring together in one place rules previously contained in almost 50 separate statutory instruments.
Active case management
Written in plain English they give courts explicit powers and responsibilities to manage cases actively.
Overriding objective
They subject criminal procedure to an explicit and overriding objective that criminal cases be dealt with justly and to assist that end the judiciary are responsible for Case Management.
All trial courts affected
The rules apply not only to the Crown Court but also to the Magistrates’ Courts. It is the over-riding objective and Case Management, that go to the heart of the new culture that the rules promote. Case Management is already an established part of the Civil and Criminal Justice Systems. However, the extent to which cases were managed previously has very much depended upon the taste of the individual judge.
Plea and Case Management Hearings (PCMHs)
From 4 April judges will be required to exercise an extensive managerial role at the Plea and Case Management hearing, formerly a Plea and Direction Hearing (PDH) which is to take place for every case in the Crown Court.
Dealing with the case efficiently and expeditiously
Central to the Protocol is that no trial should be permitted to exceed three months or an outer limit of six months, save in exceptional circumstances. The Protocol is primarily directed towards cases which are likely to last eight weeks or longer. It should also be followed, however, in all cases estimated to last more than four weeks. This Protocol applies to trials by jury, but many of the principles will be applicable if trials without a jury are permitted under s. 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (certain fraud cases to be conducted without a jury).
The new rules are here

From today a new offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult comes into force.

Monday 21 March 2005 at 9:56 pm | In News | Post Comment

The new offence of familial homicide, introduced in the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, will close a legal loophole that allows those jointly accused of the murder of a child or vulnerable adult to escape justice by remaining silent or blaming each other.

This measure puts a clear legal responsibility on adult household members who have frequent contact with a child or vulnerable adult to take reasonable steps to protect the child or vulnerable adult if they knew or should have known they were at significant risk of serious physical harm from members of that household.

The reasonable steps that an adult household member is expected to take will vary according to the circumstances of the case and ultimately it will be for the jury to decide if the person acted reasonably.

The public information leaflet is available at

Domestic violence accounts for 16 per cent of all crime (Crime in England and Wales 2003/4, Home Office 2004).

Making legal services consumer friendly

Monday 21 March 2005 at 9:22 pm | In News | Post Comment

Reforms proposed for the regulation of legal services will be based on Sir David Clementi’s recommendations in his ‘Report of the Review of the Regulatory Framework for Legal Services in England and Wales’ published 15 December 2004.  

Professional bodies of lawyers are:
The Law Society
Bar Council
Institute of Legal Executives
Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
Chartered Institute of Patent Agents
Council for Licensed Conveyancers
Immigration Services Commissioner and Court of Faculties.

New measures will introduce a regulatory framework covering all legal professionals, create a new complaints process and permit new arrangements for setting up legal businesses.

It is hoped that he reforms will introduce value for money together with accessible, consistent, responsive legal services, which are designed to suit the consumer and not the convenience or interest of the supplier.

A Consumer Panel will be set up to advise the Government on implementing the reforms. 

A new Legal Services Board (LSB) will oversee aspects of the legal services industry.
The LSB will have a chair and majority membership made up from people drawn from outside the legal profession. Appointment to the Board will be made on merit by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
Regulatory powers will be invested in the LSB, with powers to devolve regulatory functions to frontline bodies subject to their competence and governance arrangements
The LSB will determine whether these bodies are fit for purpose and will have a range of powers such as the power to set targets, issue guidance and impose fines and, in the final analysis, to de-recognise a professional body if it fails in its duties
The regulatory and representative functions of all front-line regulatory bodies should be separated. They will have to demonstrate to the LSB that their regulatory processes are robust, transparent and independent

New Complaints Body
A single and fully independent body, the Office for Legal Complaints, will be set up to handle all consumer complaints against regulated legal service providers where the complaint cannot be resolved at the local level. A single point of entry will be easier to access, providing consistent, fair and professional handling of cases for all complainants.

Most importantly, it will be demonstrably independent, while providing quick and fair redress for consumers. The Office for Legal Complaints will be headed by a board with a Chair and majority membership appointed from outside the legal profession. Appointments are to be made on merit.

New Business Structures
The Government will make it possible for legal services to be delivered in new ways. Proposed measures will include:
Non-lawyers will be able to be managers or partners in legal practices as well as owners and investors, for the first time
Robust safeguards for the consumer and a licensing arrangement for new businesses to ensure their fitness to act on behalf of clients.

Regulatory Gaps
The Legal Services Board will identify regulatory gaps and advise the Government. Where significant gaps are already evident, the Government will evaluate whether early moves to regulate are in the public interest. Work has already begun to determine whether consumers will benefit from the regulation of claims managers and will-writers.

National Mediation Helpline

Saturday 5 March 2005 at 6:22 pm | In News | Post Comment

People with personal injury, small claims, business and consumer disputes can get information and advice on how mediation can help solve their problem from a new National Mediation Helpline (NMH) pilot scheme.

Calls to the helpline on 0845 60 30 809 will be charged at the local rate and the service can arrange mediation appointments with an accredited independent mediator so that people across England and Wales can settle disputes quickly and easily.

Website here.

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