Criminal Justice Secure Email to be axed as Gove performs another U-turn

Criminal lawyers have given a cautious, if somewhat bemused, welcome to the news (due to be formally announced later today) that Criminal Justice Secure Email is to be officially discontinued from June 1st.

They may be less pleased to learn that the Government plans to enact emergency legislation requiring them to acquire new computer programming skills. The radical plan is designed to ensure that despite the admitted failure of CJSM, the Ministry of Justice’s vision of an entirely digital courtroom nevertheless becomes a reality.

Under the proposals the widely disliked secure email system is to be temporarily “mothballed” whilst the Digital Case System will, in the words of the MoJ’s press release, be “simplified and streamlined.” Senior civil servants have reportedly accepted representations from the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Criminal Bar Association that the current systems have not produced the benefits expected. The department yesterday published official statistics showing that the average time from receipt of a case by the Crown Court to its completion has increased from 164 in 2013 to a disappointing 204 days now. Continue reading “Criminal Justice Secure Email to be axed as Gove performs another U-turn”

I don’t blame the Top QC for bringing an unsuccessful private prosecution but should we have to pay for it?

The subject of costs in criminal cases is not, it must be admitted, a sexy one but it is important. The rules are often opaque and often misunderstood even by lawyers. Perhaps for this reason some of the grotesque injustices at the heart of the system are seldom given the attention that they deserve. Bear with me if you will, because even if the topic is not very exciting, it is important.

Martin Porter QC is a campaigner. He was in the news this week after he brought a private prosecution for dangerous driving against a man called Aslan Kayardi. The prosecution failed. Despite this the judge ordered that Mr Porter be awarded his costs from “central funds,” in other words from public money.

Lest anyone think that what follows is intended as in any way a personal attack upon Mr Porter, it is nothing of the sort. He is a highly respected lawyer, and has behaved perfectly properly and honourably. Had I been advising him (not that he would want or need me to do so) I might well have advised him to do everything that he in fact did. My complaint is not with him, but with the system within which he and I both operate. Continue reading “I don’t blame the Top QC for bringing an unsuccessful private prosecution but should we have to pay for it?”

Andrew Picard: Did he get a soft sentence for being an Etonian?

Andrew Picard is 18. He is an old Etonian.

Last Friday he received a sentence of 10 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. The sentence has been the subject of a great deal of criticism. A Change.org petition has been set up asking the Attorney-General to “review” the sentence. It currently has well-over 10,000 signatures.

The signatories to the petition have been disappointed. The Attorney-General has announced that he cannot refer this sentence to the Court of Appeal. That power exists only for “indictable only” offences (Mr Picard’s were triable “either way”), or for certain other specific offences, which do not include those to which he pleaded guilty.

Many online commentators have noted the fact that Mr Picard is an old Etonian, and that his father is a prominent American lawyer. Many have suggested that he has been treated leniently for these reasons.

Are they fair criticisms of Judge Ross? Did he pass an unduly lenient sentence? Are there any grounds for thinking that Mr Picard was treated more leniently because he was an Etonian? Continue reading “Andrew Picard: Did he get a soft sentence for being an Etonian?”