Some of your older readers will share my interest in the address by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd to the lobby group Justice, in which he proposed the introduction of a two-track Crown court. Permit me to correct your correspondent.
The idea of an intermediate court between the magistrates’ court and the Crown court does not derive its genesis from a proposal by Sir Robin Auld in 2001.
In fact such an intermediate court, known as the Quarter Sessions court, was from 1388 a fundamental link in the criminal justice system of, first, England and Wales until the 1700s – and thereafter Great Britain. It was abolished, along with the Court of Assize, by the Courts Act 1971: the Assize court being replaced by the present Crown court.
I had the privilege of attending my local Quarter Sessions at Liverpool (housed in the Sessions House opposite St George’s Hall) as an articled clerk – and later, after qualification, also at Birkenhead and Chester.
Sitting there, watching the chairman dispense ‘dock briefs’ for seven shillings and sixpence to the assembled members of the junior criminal bar (and the antics of more senior members in their efforts to avoid such unrewarding work) was an education for any young lawyer.
What goes round comes round. And by that I am, of course, also making ironic reference to the legal aid cuts announced by the justice secretary at the end of last month.
David Kirwan, senior partner, higher courts advocate, Kirwans, Merseyside