Minutes of Meeting of the Criminal Sub Committee held at the Court House, St Mary’s Gate, Derby on 15 May 2019

Present – Nick Wright, Simon Stevens, Andy Oldroyd, James Close;  Glyn Plant of HMCTS, Elaine Annable of LAA and Emma Heath-Tilford of CPS

Apologies have been received from Inspector Katie Andrews of Derbyshire Constabulary

Court Issues

NVW made the point about Crown Court Listing Policies.  Cases being put in or taken out of Crown Court lists at very short notice tend to cause duplication of work and greater inefficiency for defence advocates.  Presumably the same applies for prosecution advocates.  SS confirmed that he’d had cases pulled out at the last minute, even after he’d left the office for the day, and so the news was only available effectively on the morning of the hearing.  This even included a fifth sentencing date pulled out late in one afternoon.  How long must somebody wait to be sentenced?

  1. Apparently, there is a Crown Court User Group Meeting, last on 13 March.  NVW agreed to talk to AO about Justin Ablott raising it at the next meeting. 
  2. At Andy Cash’s request, the court will put information about the deaths, retirement, etc of Magistrates Court on the noticeboard in the solicitors’ room.
  3. Shortages of legal advisors?  HMCTS will not prioritise court work over out of court work for legal advisors.

SJP cases – soon clerks at, say, Derby Magistrates Court, will be doing cases from anywhere in the country – subject to computer delays.

AO mentioned that some clients that he’d had, had entered a plea by post after being told that that was acceptable, only to be then arrested on warrants.  GP agreed to raise that issue with the police.

GP said that in shoplifting cases, if the defendant doesn’t attend, rather than issuing warrants etc, the Magistrates now have an option, more likely to be used, of adjourning for Section 9 proof in absence.

Mention was made about the summer of 2019 when there were likely to be less legal advisor available and therefore more courts likely to be closed, usually those with fewer cases in them.  More court assistants are to be recruited.

It was noted that Chesterfield Domestic Violence Courts are very lightly listed currently.  And GP said that work there generally is reducing.

The cracked trial rate is very high at Chesterfield Magistrates Court, more so than at Derby.  There is also some evidence that Youth Court work is increasing.

The court has told the police that Magistrates will be reluctant to make Restraining Orders in cases where the matter is late in coming to court.  If nothing has happened in the meantime, why is there a need for a Restraining Order?

GP also said that if defendants want to surrender on warrants, the court is now more likely to list it without going through the police cells.  Listings should be asked, and they would try and get the matter in court that day.

There were no plans to close either Chesterfield or Mansfield Magistrates Courts.

LAA Matters

The question of Burton on Trent Custody Suite closing was raised.  Local practitioners are now having to go to Watling Street Police Station which is about another hour away.  We are invited by EA to feed that into the Legal Aid review.  The LAA is looking at fee structures.  Similar points will apply following the closure of Buxton Custody Suite.

GP mentioned that the court would like cases to be dealt with if possible, by legal advisors at 9.30am in remand GAP Courts.  E.g. if it is a clear guilty plea that will need reports.  Probation should be there at 9.30am.

In respect of cases sent to the Crown Court, PSR’s will be ordered where the court thinks fit.  They are likely to be in cases involving deaths, youths and sex offences.

Court Duty Solicitor

The LAA is trying to agree guidance as to when back ups can be called in.  This had  been a long-standing issue about the court duty solicitor being swamped with work on some days.  The LAA will publish the guidance when its ready and give it to auditors.

Members are asked to comment if there is a case for more than one duty solicitor – on which day of the week would that be?  The LAA will consult if we wish.  Members are invited to feedback to SS or NVW if there is such a desire.  

The court has indicated that the tribunal presenters interview room almost under Court 3 is likely to be unlocked if tribunals are not sitting and therefore be available for consultations.

Probation Matters

The point was noted that Mansfield and Derby are better producing FDR’s on the day than Nottingham or Chesterfield (for some reason)

LAA Matters

  1. Cloud video platform.  This allows virtual video meetings.  The LAA are looking for volunteers.  It can be done by phone.  The LAA have until the end of June 2019 to see if it is fit for purpose and they ask for volunteers.  VHS Fletchers and The Smith Partnership have volunteered.  Ideas on how to use it were requested.
  2. Head of control management – we were asked to note that David Thomas is the new head
  3. A criminal legal aid review was highlighted by EA.

Buxton Custody/Duty Solicitor Scheme

There has been a consultation about the High Peak Duty Solicitor Scheme.  But no responses from Chesterfield.  Most detainees will go to Chesterfield, although some will go to Stockport/Tameside.  The whole thing about this is that Derbyshire cases will still be investigated by Derbyshire Police with a detainee in the Greater Manchester area.  But the cases will end up going to Chesterfield.

Police Matters  

NVW raised the issue about police interviews being done at very unsociable hours.  All the other defence representatives present agreed, and we will see what the Inspector says about that.

CPS Matters

AO said that there were still delays in getting the IDPC quickly.

Date of next meeting 19th September 2019 at 3pm at Derby Magistrates Court.

The court were thanked for their hospitality.