Thursday, August 25, 2005

How Will These Applications Ever Work?

I sat waiting at Court for about two hours today. That really got up my nose. I was asked to attend at a hearing early instead of the appointed 3.30 pm time. I attended promptly for a 2.00 pm afternoon hearing to discover hat the Co-defendant's solicitor who had also agreed to attend early had not bothered to do so, in fact he had the cheek to turn up late and deny that he had ever had a phone conversation agreeing to attend at 2.00 pm - it was very unlucky for him that the very person who he spoke to at the Court was sitting in Court and put the Court record right.

During my unpleasant two hour wait in the pre-trial review Court I watched a case that had been called on where the Defence wanted to make an application to adduce evidence of bad character of the victim. The Defence had gone through the proper statutory procedure to make an application for bad character and during a previous hearing the Court had adjourned the application to adduce bad character because the Defence were required to provide further information about the previous conviction. It was not enough for the Defence to serve details of a previous conviction, they also had to provide background information to that previous conviction such as the facts of the case. I have to agree that as the case law currently stands the a prosecuting authority would not be allowed to adduce evidence of bad character on the basis of a previous conviction alone, they would also need to provide background information on that conviction.

Since the last hearing the Defence had asked the Prosecution to provide details of the previous conviction. The Prosecution had not responded before today's hearing, and today they refused to provide the background information. The Clerk of the Court said that without the background information the Defence application was bound to fail so should not be made.

The Defence Solicitor was rather enraged by the CPS response to his simple request, but what can he do? I sat in the back of the Court trying to think how the CPS could be forced to give disclosure of information held on their computers and held in their files that would assist the Defence application. If the usual disclosure process was followed under the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996 I am unsure what attitude the Courts would apply to requests for information to assist Defence applications - I guess I will have to wait for a Court of Appeal or Administrative Court ruling.

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