Thursday, September 29, 2005

Waiting Again

The joy of waiting at Court is starting to wear me down. Today I arrived promptly at Court for a pre-trial review for a case where my Clients attendance had been excused. As I arrived at Court on time I anticipated that I had chance of getting on early and away from Court early.

Despite my prompt arrival my case could not be dealt with early as the Prosecutor had some enquiries to conduct in my case before they could be ready.

I then looked around the waiting area and saw seven other solicitors sitting around waiting. From time to time they would take instructions but generally they were waiting like me. So for a period of time there were seven people all sitting waiting at legal aid rates of £26.30 per hour.

The Magistrates and Youth Court system (apart from trials and other specially scheduled hearings) work on a first come first served basis. The Court will schedule 20 or so cases in the list and when both the Defendants and legal representatives are ready they will go on the usher's list as being a ready case. Then each case on the ready list is called in to Court.

Success of getting a case dealt with early at Court is so random, and is sodependentt on factors outside of my control that I find the whole waiting situation so frustrating. The factors that can spoil a case being ready are things such as:

1. The prosecution not having the file or case papers.
2. The Defendant arriving at Court late.
3. If the Defendant is in custody Securicor/Premier bringing the Defendant late.
4. The usher taking cases out of order and giving preference to their 'preferred solicitor'.
5. The Court being really slow to deal with other cases.
6. A Co-defendant or Co-defendant's solicitor arriving at Court late.
7. The Court not having a file for the Defendant.

There is of course the possibility that the Defendant has not previously provided any instructions so you have to go through the case with them at Court meaning that you will be thrown in to the back end of the usher's ready case list when you are finally ready to go in to Court.

I have thought about this many times and have yet to come up with a decent suggestion as to how to eliminate all of this waiting around at Youth Courts or Magistrates Court. An obvious suggestion would be to move to the Crown Court system where Defendants are given staggered times across the morning and afternoon for cases to be dealt with. The random factors that plague the Youth Court and Magistrates Court system are likely to render the staggered system unworkable.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

financial penalties for lateness?

Gavin said...

For all parties including the solicitors?

James E. Petts said...

Bringing a good book is always a good idea. Of course, you could always bring files from other cases to prepare whilst you're waiting... ;-)

Gavin said...

I would not dream of double claiming the waiting on one file and the preparation on another.