A fast-track scheme to allow lawyers to bypass airport-style security checks has begun at five courts.
The Bar Council has developed an app for barristers to prove their ID, following reports of case delays and excessive searches. Using the My Bar portal, they download a photograph and unique barcode onto their smartphones or tablets, which they present at participating courts. Solicitors can also participate using approved hard copy ID.
Lawyers must register with the courts in advance. Those taking part in the pilot are Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Maidstone Combined Court; Southwark Crown Court, Tameside Magistrates’ Court and Wood Green Crown Court.
Random searches will be carried out during the pilot to make sure the scheme is working as intended, and, if successful, it will be extended nationally and include other professionals.
Justice minister, Lucy Frazer, said: ‘Courts and tribunals are the daily workplace for many trusted legal professionals. This pilot will make it easier for them to simply get on with their job.’
Days after the scheme for lawyers started the Lord Chancellor, David Gauke, announced proposals to have separate entrances for victims and defendants at all new and refurbished magistrates’ and crown court buildings. The plans are part of a package of proposals in a ‘Victims’ Strategy’ and include providing victims of serious incidents with extra support and more explanation of the implications of outcomes, as well as requiring court staff to use a ‘more compassionate’ tone towards them.
* Meanwhile, the Criminal Appeal Office announced that it has opened a facility to enable advocates to have a 15-minute video conference with appellants in custody prior to their hearing, as well as a short post-hearing conference. They will take place in a special booth and advocates will be notified of their booth and timeslot in a published list.
The facilities replace the conferences that used to take place in the cells in the Royal Courts of Justice and recognise that most appellants in the Court of Appeal now appear by video link.
In addition, as a result of changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules and the Practice Direction, from 1 October barristers should lodge appeal notices in respect of conviction, sentence and confiscation orders directly with the Criminal Appeal Office and not the crown court. This has been introduced to simplify the process of lodging an appeal and reduce delays.