Saturday, September 10, 2005

Consultations

Consultations papers are regularly issued by various bodies in the legal system attempting to change systems and methods that are currently in place. The past ten days has seen a flurry of activity with consultation papers being published on subjects that criminal lawyers really should take an active interest in. Recently consultation papers have been issued on:

  1. Home Office consultation on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Codes of Practice that deal with stop and search, search of premises, detention, interviews, identification, and now arrests.
  2. Sentencing Advisory Panel's consultation on sentencing in criminal cases of assaults and other offences against the person.
  3. Home Office consultation on victim's advocates so that families of murder or manslaughter victims can have a voice in court.
  4. Home Office consultation on whether a new criminal offence should be created to deal with forced marriages.
  5. Department for Constitutional Affairs consultation paper on, "The Delegation of Powers by Justices' Clerks to Non Legally Qualified Staff in Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales".

The problem with all of these consultation papers is that they take a considerable amount of time to read, consider, and then prepare an answer to. There may be consultation papers on legal issues that I have omitted to mention that have been issued recently, but as far as I am concerned the above five papers are the most important to my profession.

I probably should respond to all of the papers but I doubt that I will have the time to put together a reasoned and sensible response for any more than one of them. After working a grueling five day week, I often have out of hours work commitments with Police Stations to attend to, and if there is any time at the weekend I try to see my wife and children. Thankfully there are professional bodies that submit responses to these consultations. I am a great believer in voicing my opinion on matters, and I particularly like to be able to stand up and whinge about new changes in the law where I have objected to those changes. I shall try my best to respond to the consultations but there are simply too many at the present time.

2 comments:

David Russell said...

I might not be legally qualified but could I offer these summaries of the consultations you have mentioned

1. Confusion among police officers = incorrect conduct = more people sueing police= more work for lawyers

2. People who get longer sentences as a result appeal to European Court of Human Rights = more work for lawyers

3. Victims advocates. They would be normal advocates hired by victims presumably? = more work for lawyers

4. New crimes = more people on trial = more work for lawyers

5. Delegation deemed unlawful = lots of legal action all round = more work for lawyers

Gavin said...

Oh so cynical David, let me respond:

1. Police like to shift the balance of power towards themselves, such as introduce a completely new Code G to PACE - they can now arrest you for any offence provided certain criteria are satisfied. Trust me, I would rather not have to deal with people arrested for dropping litter.

2. The assaults consultation is probably the most worthy out of the set of five. Well thought out sentencing guidelines would actually reduce the amount of time wasted arguing in Court what the sentence should actually be.

3. I particularly dislike the idea of the third advocate turning up in Court to stick in their oar. If the prosecution cannot get it right with various liason services for victim's families then why is a third advocate.

4. This should not be a crime!

5. The Courts are now getting desperate to increase the efficiency of cases running through the Court system. I am going to an 'informal' hearing on Monday being held in a Court library because they have run out of room for cases in Court.

In short I would prefer less work, so that I can have the time to deal with cases properly instead of tearing around trying to get the best result for the least amount of time!

p.s. If I sound like I am having a go I apologise, I could not guess what the tone of your post was supposed to be?