Tag Archive | "crown prosecution service"

Reforming the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme


The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has issued a consultation paper which sets out proposals for the reform of the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). This scheme pays advocates to defend clients in the Crown Court. The current AGFS scheme was last subject to major change in 2007.

In his introduction to the consultation, Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, Minister of State for Courts and Justice, said: “Sir Brian Leveson has produced an outstanding blueprint for the modernisation of our criminal proceedings system. His reforms are already beginning to transform the criminal justice system to reflect the new reality that we face. It is vital that we update the way that we pay criminal defence advocates to reflect this reality too. Our current payment system does not focus enough on the skilled advocacy that barristers and solicitor advocates demonstrate in the Crown Court. I want to change that.”

According to the Government, the AGFS relies too heavily on Pages of Prosecution Evidence (PPE), served by the Crown Prosecution Service, as a means of deciding how complex individual cases are, and therefore how much a defence advocate should be paid. The current scheme also relies on the number of witnesses to help determine the fee to be paid.

The justice system is changing, and new forms of evidence are becoming critical features of many criminal cases. The counting of pages, and counting of new forms of electronic evidence, converted to “pages” is held to be no longer the most effective way of assessing how much work an advocate needs to do in an individual case, and therefore how much that advocate should be paid.

The proposed scheme claims to reduce reliance on counting pages, and instead would introduce a more sophisticated system of classifying offences, based on the typical amount of work required in each case. The time spent in court, conducting the advocacy upon which the justice system relies, would also become a more important driver for the fee paid. It is designed to be cost neutral, “with no intention to reduce or increase the overall cost envelope.”

While encouraging as many members as possible to respond to the proposals, the Law Society asserts that MoJ plans to impose cuts of up to £30 million on criminal defence solicitors. The proposed cuts come less than a month after the MoJ published proposals that will see QCs’ fees rise by 10% at the expense of other criminal advocates. The MoJ will reduce payments to advocates appointed by the court to cross-examine alleged victims of abuse from private rates to legal aid rates, and will make changes to the Litigators Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) which will slash payments for paper-heavy Crown Court cases. Criminal solicitors simply cannot afford to absorb any further cuts.

James Parry, chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Legal Aid Committee, said that these cuts are unnecessary and ill-timed, given the long term project to reform the litigator fee scheme, which will ultimately remove reliance on the pages of evidence which are creating this problem. As the Society will be working with the MoJ on this longer term project “it is unwise to impose short-term cuts on the scheme before that project has even started.”

“The Ministry has extensive independent evidence from consultants that demonstrates that solicitors’ businesses cannot afford to absorb further cuts, and there is a substantial risk that these cuts will drive a significant number of firms into insolvency,” said Parry.

“We recognise that the MoJ has concerns about the use of paper as a proxy for determining fees in the Crown Court,” he said. “With so much evidence now being video or data evidence, we have long shared those concerns. This is why we lobbied the Legal Aid Agency to start discussions about revisions to the LGFS to reflect the reality of Crown Court cases today. It is deeply disappointing that the MoJ is making ill-considered ad hoc changes to the scheme when those discussions are ongoing and making good progress.”

Parry concluded: “This is not a rational approach. The Government needs to tackle the problem at source. It cannot keep responding to every change in the criminal justice system by slashing the fees paid to lawyers.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal Aid, UncategorizedComments (0)

Social media guidance


New Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance setting out the range of offences for which social media users could face prosecution was published on Monday and will be used to inform decisions on whether criminal charges should be pursued.

The new social media guidelines for prosecutors make clear that those who encourage others to participate in online harassment campaigns – known as ‘virtual mobbing’ – can face charges of encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.

Examples of potentially criminal behaviour include making available personal information, for example a home address or bank details – a practice known as “doxxing” – or creating a derogatory hashtag to encourage harassment of victims.

The CPS’s social media guidelines also cover attacks on disabled people, violence against women and girls, and racial and religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime. CPS hope that publication will stimulate debate about the limits of free speech online and may help develop a clearer consensus about what is acceptable behaviour.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, said: “Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass. Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “The internet’s not an anonymous place where people can post without any consequences. People should think about their own conduct. If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline.”

The changes come after a report found that one in four teenagers is abused online over their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or disability.

But sexting – exchanging sexualised images – between those aged under 18 should not normally become the subject of a police investigation if it involves children of a similar age in a relationship, the Crown Prosecution Service has recommended.

In more serious cases consideration may be given to the offence of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Another practice that may be considered illegal is “baiting” – humiliating someone by labelling them as sexually promiscuous or posting images to disparage victims.

Released during Hate Crime Awareness Week, Monday also saw the launch of CPS Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime which will now be put to a public consultation. The DPP said: “Our latest Hate Crime Report showed that in 2015-16 more hate crime prosecutions were completed than ever before. More than four in five prosecuted hate crimes result in a conviction; with over 73 per cent guilty pleas, which is good news for victims. We have undertaken considerable steps to improve our prosecution of hate crime and we are committed to sustaining these efforts.” Consultation on the CPS guidelines lasts for 13 weeks.

PS. The speed of u-turning continues apace. The last blog from Birmingham said: “Firms would be required to list numbers of foreign employees, and that could be divisive.” And how. Before the conference set was struck the sound of screeching brakes and changed policy could be heard across the weekend media as new home secretary Amber Rudd was left with egg on her face.

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

Violence against Women and Girls


The Crown Prosecution Service is prosecuting and convicting a record number of rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse cases, a report published today shows.

The CPS’s annual Violence against Women and Girls report shows that rape, domestic abuse and sexual offences now account for 18.6 per cent of the CPS’s total caseload and this figure has been increasing year on year. In 2015/16, the CPS prosecuted 117,568 defendants for all crimes grouped together as Violence against Women and Girls (VaWG).

More than 100,000 defendants were prosecuted for domestic abuse, with over 75,000 convicted, the highest volumes ever recorded, reaching the highest ever conviction rate of 75.4 per cent by March 2016. In December 2015, the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour also came into law, and statistics show there were five prosecutions of this offence completed by the end of March 2016.

Alison Saunders said: “Domestic abuse, rape and sexual offences now account for nearly 19 per cent of our workload – an increase over the past six years from just under 9 per cent. While the volume of these cases is increasing, the report also shows the volume of convictions has risen by 11 per cent.

“Today a rape, domestic abuse, sexual offence or child abuse case is more likely to be prosecuted and convicted than ever before.”
The DPP said that historical under-reporting of offences meant that the number of cases being charged was only a proportion of the offending taking place. She said that the ease with which such crimes could be committed online was contributing to the increase in prosecutions.

Other areas where online abuse is being used as a tool of harassment and intimidation are within the record numbers of stalking cases being taken to court. In 2015-16 the CPS prosecuted more cases of stalking and harassment – 12,986 – than ever before. Of those, almost 70% involved ongoing domestic abuse, and many perpetrators used the internet or other technology to carry out the offending.

There was a 32% rise, to 2,094 cases, of sending grossly offensive or indecent messages under the Malicious Communications Act, and a 20% increase to 2,026 in similar offending under section 127 of the Communications Act. The DPP said these cases related mostly to online abuse, or abuse via text, email and other forms of technology.

Saunders went on to say: “Over the last year, I have doubled the resources in specialist units that handle rape and serious sexual offence cases, including child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Prosecutors have received detailed training including on vulnerable victims and the issue of sexual consent. Following this work we have seen a rise in the rape conviction rate to 57.9 per cent and, significantly, there has also been a fall in the number of acquittals after trial.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Survivors of domestic abuse are starting to have more confidence in the criminal justice system, which is why we are seeing another rise in the volume of prosecutions and convictions. However, we know that much more work is still needed, particularly in understanding of the nature and impact of coercive control, right across the criminal justice system.”

The full text of the ‘Delivering Justice’ report can be found at:

http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/cps_vawg_report_2016.pdf

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Crown Prosecution Service on the “brink of collapse”


A recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘File on Four’ alleged that the Crown Prosecution Service is on the “brink of collapse.”

Controversial charging decisions in the cases of Lord Janner, Operation Elveden and a doctor accused of female genital mutilation have brought a hostile reaction in the media to the Director of Public Prosecutions and increasing concern about the health of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

One cheer for open justice


An attempt by the Crown Prosecution Service to hold a terrorism trial entirely in secret has been overturned by the court of appeal. The request, unprecedented in recent criminal justice history, would have prevented anyone knowing even the identity of the two men accused.

In May a Crown court judge accepted the Crown Prosecution Service’s application that it was in the interests of national security for the trial of AB and CD to be heard in secret. The CPS told the Court of Appeal that it could abandon the prosecution if the trial had to be held in public. The application for an entirely secret trial was supported by certificates from the home secretary, Theresa May, and the foreign secretary, William Hague, stating that it was required on the grounds of national security. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Death in custody


333 people died in or immediately after police custody in the years 1999 to 2009,  according to statistics from the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The MoJ report that last year 58 prisoners committed suicide. Now, for the first time, police forces, prisons, youth detention centres and the UK Border Agency could face prosecution for corporate homicide if an individual dies in their custody.

Section 2(1)(d) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 prescribes a duty of care to a person who, by reason of being a person within subsection (2), is someone for whose safety the organisation is responsible. Subsection (2) states that a person is within this subsection if – Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Better support for victims of domestic violence


The Home Office has launched plans to tackle violence against women and girls. Spouses and partners of UK residents who are forced to flee their relationships as a result of domestic violence will now be able to access vital support services.
The UN declaration on violence against women defines such violence as Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Law UpdatesComments (0)

CPS – legal guidance on stalking


For the first time victims of stalking have had their ordeal recognised in official government guidance. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published revised guidance on stalking and harassment. It emphasises the existence and widespread nature of stalking as a particular category of harassment and it identifies the various ways in which stalking occurs. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Public Prosecution Service – DPP sets out core quality standards


The standard of work expected of public prosecutors, at every stage of the prosecution process, has been published this week and is open for consultation. The consultation document on core quality standards for prosecutors covers 12 key areas, from providing advice to police before a charge to sentencing and appeal processes. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

CPS


“The public’s right to live in safety and to be protected from criminal conduct lies at the heart of the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) protect the public by prosecuting firmly and fairly, Read the full story

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