“I whole-heartedly welcome Sir Brian’s sensible recommendation to change the way fees are paid so the trial advocate receives the fee, and comes to a fair arrangement with any other advocates who worked on the case,” the Lord Chancellor said.
“I will therefore make this change as soon as possible. I have always said that while tough decisions had to be made about how public money is spent in these straightened times, I also want to make common sense changes to the ‘system’ where I can too.”
A statutory instrument to effect the change will be laid before Parliament dissolves, the Ministry of Justice confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Legal Aid Agency (LAA), defence lawyers and judiciary are said to be devising strategies on how to realise Sir Brian’s overarching principle of “getting charging decisions right first time” and foster greater cross-agency working, early engagement, and strong case ownership.
The Lord Chancellor has agreed with Sir Brian’s recommendation that cases should be retained by magistrates’ courts where possible, and has written to the Sentencing Council to request formally an amendment to the Allocation Guideline so that cases are not sent to the Crown court unless “clearly necessary”.
He confirmed that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is testing the possibility of “brigading cases”, whereby cases would be listed together when chambers or firms have a number of cases listed in the same court on a particular day.
The National Offender Management Service and HMCTS are working with local judiciary to share best practice and adapt existing arrangements to maximise the use of Crown court time by ensuring prisoners arrive in court on time.
The Lord Chancellor also confirmed that the CJS Efficiency Programme was on course to complete by July 2016 and would provide the basis of the CJS Common Platform Programme to support Sir Brian’s vision of more efficient working.