I would like to draw attention to the fact that the criminal justice system in the magistrates’ courts is no longer fit for purpose. Magistrates, legal advisers and busy practitioners are all having to cope with a system that is grinding to a halt.
The new digital system was supposed to ensure that papers are available before the date of hearing. This rarely occurs and busy Crown Prosecution Service lawyers are frequently not able (or agreeable) to emailing documents on the day. Defendants have to wait a considerable time for papers to be emailed to advisers and do not have the opportunity to inspect any documents themselves to make important decisions on the day. Disclosure is often inadequate and a tick-box exercise. Section 8 applications invariably lead to information that should have been disclosed and could have led to miscarriages of justice.
There is an almost total failure on the part of the CPS to review cases, even following representations, and trials are frequently left to agents who are in no position to make important decisions on the day.
None of this occurs in the Crown court, where there is accountability as the judges there will not tolerate this kind of practice.
It is time for a serious review.
Ian Godfrey, Consultant, Shepherd Harris & Co, Enfield