Sir Brian Leveson's Review of efficiency in criminal proceedings: Bar Council response

23 January 2015

BAR COUNCIL RESPONSE TO:

'REVIEW OF EFFICIENCY IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS'

Alistair MacDonald QC, Chairman of the Bar said: "Reform of parts of the criminal justice system is long overdue. Greater efficiency is in the interests of all those involved in the justice system.  We look forward to looking in detail at Sir Brian's recommendations.

"We are pleased to see that the review echoes many of the points made in submissions by the Bar Council's Criminal Justice Reform Group, which has undertaken its own research and is playing a leading role in helping to identify savings and efficiencies within the Criminal Justice System.

"Among the recommendations, of particular importance is the idea that the police and CPS should be 'Getting it Right First Time' when charging the defendant.  We also strongly support the concept of case ownership by the trial advocate from an early stage of the case. 

Recommendations echoed by the Bar Council's Criminal Justice Reform Group's submissions to the review include:

  • Charging decisions: Those making charging decisions must be "appropriately trained in the law" to avoid cases unnecessarily being sent to the Crown Court or being over-charged

  • Case ownership: Having a single person in each part of Criminal Justice System (CJS) who is responsible for the conduct of the case, and

  • Digital working: Communication over email between those with case ownership responsibilities, the development of a common IT platform, and greater use of video and conferencing technology thus cutting down the number of preliminary hearings and streamlining the progress of the case.

The Bar Council also welcomes the recommendation that the Legal Aid Agency should change the definition of 'instructed advocate' to the advocate who conducts the main hearing.

Alistair MacDonald QC added: "Many of the efficiency savings identified by the review rely on investment in IT. It is, therefore, vital to the effective implementation of these efficiency savings that the money allocated by Ministry of Justice, announced last year, is made available for investment.

"The Bar has already grasped, with both hands, the use of technological innovations in dealing more efficiently with the preparation and presentation of criminal cases. We look forward to working co-operatively with all other users of the CJS in order to ensure that the increased use of technology is most effectively deployed.  

"Whilst we welcome the review, we note that it was not quantitative and the recommendations have not been costed.  Nothing in this review is therefore capable of supporting any further reduction in legal aid spending."

Ends

Notes to Editors

1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and  Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board