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The following has been produced to keep criminal law practitioners informed about matters of topical interest.

NEW PRACTICE DIRECTION ON TRIALS

PRACTICE DIRECTION ON THE LISTING OF TRIALS, AGREEMENT OF NON-ESSENTIAL WITNESSES AND OBTAINING OF WITNESS AVAILABILITY IN THE CROWN COURT

 

The Lord Chief Justice has issued a new Practice Direction (No 3 of 2011) with regard to the listing of trials, agreement of non-essential witnesses and obtaining of witness availability in the Crown Court.  It is downloadable from the following link:-

http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Judicial%20Decisions/Practice%20Directions/Documents/Practice%20Direction%203-2011/Practice%20Direction%203-2011.html

The new arrangements which commenced on 5 September 2011 will be piloted in the Divisions of Belfast and Antrim and then reviewed after an appropriate period.

Some of the key changes which the Practice Direction introduces are:-

  • Crown Court trial dates will no longer be allocated prior to arraignment.
  • After a defendant has been sent for trial, and in advance of the arraignment date, the PPS will send to the defence a list of witnesses whose evidence it is suggested can be agreed.
  • At arraignment, the judge will determine whether or not the case is suitable for an early trial.
  • If the case is suitable for an early trial it will, at arraignment, be given a trial and stand-by trial date for a date within the next 12 weeks.
  • If the case is not suitable for an early trial the judge will, at arraignment, determine which issues require resolution and timetable a hearing for the issues to be resolved.
  • At arraignment, in all cases, the judge will make enquiries of the defence which witnesses can be agreed.
  • Once trial dates have been fixed the PPS and the defence will immediately notify all witnesses whose attendance is required at trial of the stand by and trial dates.
  • Where a witness does not confirm within five working days that they will attend, an application for a witness summons will be made immediately by the party who requires the attendance of that witness.

The existing targets for arraignment, commencement of trials and passing of sentence are unaffected.


THIRD PARTY DISCLOSURE PROTOCOL

PROTOCOL ON APPLICATIONS FOR THIRD PARTY DISCLOSURE

In order to increase awareness of its provisions, the Recorder of Belfast has decided to re-issue the above Protocol on applications for third party disclosure in sexual offences, or serious offences. The Protocol is downloadable from the following link:

http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-gb/judicial%20decisions/practice%20directions/documents/third%20party%20disclosure%20protocol/j_j_third%20party%20disclosure%20protocol.htm


REVIEW OF 2009 RULES

REVIEW OF THE MAGISTRATES' COURTS AND COUNTY COURT APPEALS (CRIMINAL LEGAL AID) (COSTS) RULES (NI) 2009

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is undertaking a review of the Magistrates' Courts and County Court Appeals (Criminal Legal Aid) (Costs) Rules (NI) 2009 (the 2009 Rules). The 2009 Rules, which became effective on 30 September 2009, prescribe the remuneration arrangements for solicitors and counsel for work on criminal cases at the Magistrates' Courts and on appeal to the County Court.

The Review will examine the operation of the 2009 Rules against the following criteria:

•        the time and skill which work of the description to which the Rules relate requires

•        the number and general level of competence of persons undertaking work of that description

•        the cost to public funds of any provision made by the Rules

•        the need to secure value for money and

•        whether there are any omissions in the Rules.

The Review is to be conducted in four phases, namely: engagement with stakeholders; development of proposals; consultation; and (if necessary) making of new Rules. The first phase of the review has now commenced with NICTS having written to the Society and other stakeholders to invite observations on the operation of the 2009 Rules. At the same time, they will be undertaking an analysis of the payments made under those Rules. The outcome of their analysis will be shared with relevant stakeholders in due course, and there will also be a further opportunity for comment on the operation of the Rules at that stage.

To help inform our response to the Review, the Society would welcome contributions from members on the operation of the 2009 Rules. These might relate to lacunae in the Rules, suggestions for change and/or areas where clarification is required. As the closing date for comments is 30 September, we would be grateful to hear from you on or before 23 September 2011.  Comments should be e-mailed to the Secretary of the Criminal Law Committee – peter.obrien@lawsoc-ni.org


REVIEW OF PACE REMUNERATION

Whilst not part of the 2009 Rules, NICTS is also proposing to review the remuneration arrangements for attendance at police stations in respect of defendants arrested under PACE. Its current thinking is that the PACE remuneration arrangements (which are, technically, part of the Green Form legal aid scheme) should, more appropriately, come within the criminal legal aid scheme.

To assist with the Society’s response to this Review, views from members on the operation of the remuneration arrangements under PACE are also sought.

As the closing date for comments is 30 September, we would be grateful to hear from you on or before 23 September 2011.  Comments should be e-mailed to the Secretary of the Criminal Law Committee – peter.obrien@lawsoc-ni.org


ASSIGNMENT OF LEGAL AID CERTIFICATES

Mr Justice Hart has recently delivered a judgement in relation to the assignment of an existing Criminal Legal Aid Certificate in a Crown Court case post 13 April 2011 – operative date of the Legal Aid for Crown Court Proceedings (Costs) (Amendment) Rules (NI) 2011.

This judgement can be accessed by clicking here


LISTING OF HIGH COURT BAILS

By way of reminder, the Lord Chief Justice has directed that with effect from 3 May 2011 there is a limit of nine bail applications per day every Monday, Tuesday and Friday during term time.

There will be no ceiling on the number of bail applications listed on Wednesday and Thursday during term time.

The requirement to lodge papers by 12.00 noon at least a full clear working day prior to the day for hearing will continue to apply.


LCJ ADDRESS TO CRIMINAL BAR ASSOCIATION

ADDRESS BY LORD CHIEF JUSTICE TO CRIMINAL BAR ASSOCIATION

The Opening Address delivered by the Lord Chief Justice at the 2011 Criminal Bar Association Conference is downloadable from the NICTS’s website at

http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Northern%20Ireland%20Courts%20Gallery/About%20Us/p_LCJSpeech_CBA_conference_40611.pdf

The address covers the following topics which will be of interest to criminal law practitioners :

  • Ancillary Orders on sentencing – particularly those associated with sexual offences
  • Sentencing Guidelines
  • Proposed amendments to Practice Direction 4 of 2005 relating to the lodgement of skeleton arguments in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE INSPECTORATE REPORTS

CRIMINAL JUSTICE INSPECTORATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

Since June 2011, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate for Northern Ireland has published a number of Reports relating to different aspects of the criminal justice system. These comprise:-

  • Securing Attendance at Court
  • Public Protection Arrangements
  • Pre-Sentence Reports
  • Use of Legal Services
  • Youth Diversion
  • Parole Commissioners
  • Police Ombudsman

Copies of the Reports are downloadable via the ‘The Inspections’ link of the Inspectorate’s website – www.cjini.org


ICOS CASE TRACKING ONLINE

Not sure to what date your client's case was adjourned or what the precise outcome was. The ICOS Case Tracking Online system is a free service (available daily from 6.00am – 12 midnight) which allows you to view and track progress on your cases. To view a case you need to be a participant in the case or representing a participant in the case.

You need to use the website login name allocated to you by the NICTS which is associated with your ICOS Account. This login requires a username, password and PIN to access this service. If you are currently using your ICOS Account for NICTS’ other online services then you will already know these details. If you don't currently use your ICOS Account, you should contact the ICOS Team on 028 9072 8830 who will setup your username, password and PIN for you.

The case details available to you are updated in real time subject to case registration and result confirmation rules.

All cases are available online except cases which are ex-parte or cases which are subject to reporting restrictions or no publicity orders.

The system allows you as create a personal cases list through a case flagging facility. This means that you have a quick way to view and monitor progress of your current cases.

The system also allows you to send non-urgent queries directly to the relevant case processing office.

A Guide on how to use the ICOS Case Tracking Online Service is available by clicking here

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the service is available by clicking here


FINE DEFAULT

As part of the Department of Justice's ongoing work to address the issue of fine default, the NICTS recently launched an information initiative and fine payment record. These initiatives are intended to improve the information that is available to courts, in order to assist them in making appropriate decisions at the point of sentence.

  • Means Enquiry Form

The purpose of the means enquiry form is to provide courts with defendants’ financial details, in order to assist in making decisions in relation to the level of fine to impose, and also in determining any application made on behalf of a defendant, at the point of sentence, for extra time to pay or to pay by instalments.  If a defendant does not provide his or her financial details, a court may make whatever determination it thinks fit.  It is, therefore, in defendants’ best interests to complete and return the forms to court.

A copy of the form is now served on all defendants along with their summons/charge documents. Further copies of the means enquiry form are available from court offices, or it can be downloaded from:- http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/AboutUs/Fine_Default/Pages/default.aspx

  • Fine Payment Record

The means enquiry form also includes a notice advising people that the court may consider their "fine payment record". The fine payment record shows details of fines imposed on a defendant over the previous 3 years, and whether these have been paid.  It is provided to the District Judge, if a fine is being contemplated, at the point of sentence.  A copy of the record will be given to the defendant at this stage, although a defendant may also request a copy of the record at any time before attending court, from the

Customer Services Centre, The Courthouse, Bishop Street, Derry BT48 6PQ (tel: 028 71261329)


FIXED PENALTY NOTICES

FIXED PENALTY NOTICES – AN OVERVIEW

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were introduced for certain motoring offences as a way of reducing the number of cases dealt with by the courts and there are currently 135 offences for which a FPN can be issued. Some Fixed Penalties incur only a fine whilst others result in both a fine and endorsement of penalty points onto a driving licence. With all FPNs a person will be given a time limit within which he/she has the option of accepting the notice or asking for a court hearing. By accepting the Fixed Penalty and complying with all conditions, the person will not be taken to Court.

There are 5 different types of tickets processed in the Fixed Penalty Office (FPO):-

1. Non-Endorsable  e.g. parking offences, defective light - Fine £30.00 – No points

These FPNs are to be paid within 21 days of the offence, but if the driver was not seen by the issuing officer in person, the police will complete a search on the car registration and issue a Notice to the owner giving them a further 21 days to pay. The driver does not need to surrender his/her driving licence.

2. Endorsable  e.g. misuse of mobile phone, no seatbelt - Fine £60.00 – 2- 3 points

These FPNs are issued by the PSNI at the roadside and are to be paid directly to the FPO at Laganside Courts within 21 days. A full driving licence (paper part and photo) must be handed into the local police station within 7 days of the offence. The police will then pass this on to the Fixed Penalty Office.

3. Conditional Offers e.g. caught speeding on camera - Fine £60.00 – 3 points

Conditional Offers are issued to drivers who are detected on a camera and are notified of the offence by post. These notices are to be paid within 28 days after the driver has been confirmed and the full driving licence (paper part and photo) must behanded into the Fixed Penalty Office at Laganside Courts with your payment.

4. No Vehicle Test Certificate Ticket – Fine £60 - No points

These FPNs are issued by the PSNI at the roadside and must be paid directly to the FPO at Laganside Courts within 21 days of the offence.  The driver does not need to surrender his/her driving licence.

5. No Insurance Ticket – Fine £200 - 6 points

These FPNs are issued by the PSNI at the roadside and are to be paid directly to the FPO at Laganside Courts within 21 days. The driver must hand his/her full driving licence (paper part and photo) into the local police station within 7 days of the offence. The police will then pass this on to the Fixed Penalty Office.

During 2009 Fixed Penalty Notice payments amounted to £3,182,345 (£1,023,734 of this was from Conditional Offer FPNs) and the Fixed Penalty Office endorsed 44056 licences.

The Courts and Tribunals Service’s Fixed Penalty Office at the Laganside Courts Complex deals only with the payment of Fixed Penalty tickets and the endorsement of driving licences. All other issues e.g. queries in relation to eligibility for speed awareness courses or appeals against the issuing of tickets should be addressed to the Central Ticket Office, Lisnasharragh PSNI Station, 42 Montgomery  Road, Belfast, BT6 9LD. Telephone 028 9065 0222.


CURRENT CONSULTATIONS

UPDATE ON CURRENT CONSULTATIONS

1. Sex Offender Notification and Violent Offender Orders

The purpose of this consultation which is downloadable from:

http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/public-consultations/current-consultations/consultation-on-sex-offender-notification-and-violent-offender-orders.htm is to seek views on:

  • A framework for reviewing indefinite periods of notification

This proposal is in response to a judgement of the Supreme Court, applicable across all UK jurisdictions, which ruled that indefinite periods of notification, without the opportunity for review, were incompatible with human rights obligations.

  • Strengthening the requirements to make them more effective

This section proposes a number of amendments to make the law more effective, including requiring offenders to provide additional information to the police such as passport and bank account details and increasing the scope of Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.  

  • Violent offenders

This proposal would introduce Violent Offender Orders, similar to Sexual Offences Prevention Orders, designed to reduce risk from violent offenders in the community.

As the closing date for comments is 5 October 2011, the Society would be grateful to receive same on or before 28 September 2011.  Comments should be e-mailed to the Secretary of the Human Rights & Law Reform Committee – colin.caughey@lawsoc-ni.org

2. Fine Default

For the past number of years there has been an increasing number of people ending up in prison for the non-payment of a fine.

The Department of Justice invites views on a number of proposals around four key areas in the fines process: targeting the fine; encouraging payment; dealing with default; and delivering the service.

The Consultation Paper can be downloaded from:-

http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/public-consultations/current-consultations/fine-default-in-northern-ireland.pdf

As the closing date for comments is 14 October 2011, the Society would be grateful to receive same on or before 7 October 2011.  Comments should be e-mailed to the Secretary of the Human Rights & Law Reform Committee – colin.caughey@lawsoc-ni.org

3.       PSNI Service Procedures

PSNI has recently issued three draft service procedures which can be accessed by clicking below:

DRAFT SP - NON-COURT DIVERSION BY TELEPHONE

DRAFT SP - STREAMLINED NO PROSECUTION FILES

DRAFT SP - WHEN AND HOW TO MANAGE DISPOSAL OF CRIME BY DISCRETION

These procedures document the process police propose to follow in deciding when and how to specifically use - no prosecution, discretion and non-court telephone diversion disposals. PSNI state that with the increase of options to deal with offenders, clear guidance has become increasingly important.

Whilst these procedures are intended for internal use to guide operational officers in their correct application, they naturally touch on the interface between other criminal justice organisations. 

Therefore as part of its external consultation on these procedures it invites any comments felt necessary and for these to be returned by 20 November 2011. Anyone wishing to make comment should contact the Secretary of the Human Rights & Law Reform Committee on or before 13 November 2011 at  colin.caughey@lawsoc-ni.org


LIBRARY SERVICES

LSNI LIBRARY SERVICES FOR CRIMINAL LAW PRACTITIONERS

The Society’s Library holds a comprehensive collection of legal materials for the criminal law practitioner in both hard copy and electronic form.

As well as an extensive range of criminal and sentencing law textbooks, it has precedents, law reports, journals and electronic sources relating to criminal law such as

  • Westlaw Crime Online
  • Criminal Law Reports
  • Journal of Criminal Law
  • Criminal Law Review
  • Criminal Law and Justice Weekly

There are also several library services which may be of use to a solicitor specialising in a particular field.

Current awareness

A monthly bulletin is sent to all members of the Society containing a list of abstracts of all decisions published by the Courts of Northern Ireland. Also included is a list of useful journal articles received in the library for that month. Copies of articles can be ordered from the library. Copies of judgments can be downloaded from Libero free of charge.

Tailored e-bulletins

Regular e-bulletins can be supplied to solicitors who have registered their specific interests with the library containing:

- abstracts or full text judgments of all reported criminal law decisions from the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown Court, the High Court and Court of Appeal as soon as they are reported.

- details of articles published in any UK legal journals (whether or not they are held in the library) on any particular area of interest as soon as they are published.

- abstracts of UK caselaw on any particular area of interest as soon as they are reported.

  • Literature searches

Should you have a particular query, experienced library staff can undertake legal research on the wide range of resources available to them. 

  • Expert witness database

The Library maintains a register of expert witnesses comprising details of experts both inside and outside the Northern Ireland legal jurisdiction.

For further information contact Heather Semple, Head of Library and Information Services Tel: 028 90 231614 Fax: 028 90 232606 Email: heather.semple@lawsoc-ni.org

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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