Make us both a cup of tea and let me tell you about my day….
So off I went to court today ready to prosecute three bail applications, prosecute two sentences and defend in a PCMH. A busy day, much to do.
First stop was Court 10 for my bail applications. Three sets of papers clasped in my hands. Over 150 pages of information read and prepared the night before.
As had another barrister from another set of chambers in Manchester. He had the same three sets of papers. He had prepared the same three bail applications. We both had a “No, no, after you Claude” moment. Ultimately we could not both do them. I lost out in a legal game of paper, rock, scissors. Half my work, gone in the blink of an eye.
I will fast forward a little bit here. I told my clerk of the double booking. He made some enquiries. My colleague and I had been booked for the same bail applications in telephone calls made an hour apart on Friday.
So, back to my day at court. One defendant decided he did not want to run the risk of Christmas inside. So case adjourned, bench warrant issued and no prospect of putting the bill in this side of Christmas.
My other prosecution sentence proceeded smoothly. Which was more than can be said for the case up to that stage. The defendants had pleaded guilty on the day of trial. That is the sort of thing that the powers that be really do not like. Unfortunately this was a case that cracked by both the prosecution and defence carefully analysing CCTV of events surrounding the assault. CCTV footage that took the defence several months and two (unpaid) court hearings to get hold of.
My PCMH was adjourned too. No arraignment. The defendant is offering a plea, so hopefully it will resolve next time. But it was pretty difficult to have a PCMH today. The Prosecution had served their case late. Well, I say served their case. They had sent through two handwritten statements from civilians and one statement from the five officers involved in the case. They sent the exhibits in two halves. The first batch of exhibits stopped half way through an exhibit. Oh, and did not included the defendant’s interview. And none of the served exhibits had any statements producing them.
At least my day took a turn for the better as I picked up a breach of curfew brief at court. Woo, and indeed, hoo. Interestingly the defendant had originally been sentenced to a six month curfew in June. The curfew was to be electronically monitored. So in June the defendant went home and waited for the private contractor to visit his home and install the equipment.
And wait he did. For six weeks. In fact, by the time the company called in order to install the equipment he had got sick of waiting for them and was not at home. Unfortunately for him this was during his curfew hours so he was breached.
When the Judge heard of the circumstance at the breach proceedings in August he felt that there was blame on both sides. He split the difference and added a one month extension to the curfew. He also expressed the view that the private contractor really should install the equipment ASAP.
So home went the defendant. He waited patiently this time. He stuck to his curfew. So that meant he was at home when the company turned up to install the equipment. In NOVEMBER. Five months after the curfew was imposed. Three months after the Judge had said they needed to pull their finger out.
So by this time the defendant had had enough. He told them where to go. And got breached again. This time the Judge just cancelled the curfew. What was the point? It was an electronically monitored curfew. The public pay for the curfew to be monitored. And it simply was not being monitored.
So there we have my day at court. As I waited for my cases to get on or get adjourned virtually every case I witnessed got adjourned too. No CCTV served in one case, no interpreter booked in another case, no defendants produced from custody in another case and countless cases not ready because of late service.
All of this was being played out against a background of the court computer system, Xhibit, being down for the entire day.
All the cuts have led to this. All the cuts mean nothing is getting done. Staff are so over stretched they make basic mistakes like briefing two counsel for the same hearings. Nobody is dealing with the basics of disclosure. Paperwork is being thrown through the photocopier in an effort to at least serve something. Private contractors are being paid scandalous amounts for a scandalous service. Adjourned hearings lead to delay and additional cost.
Well at least I have tomorrow to look forward to. I have a trial listed tomorrow. Oh no, hang on. That should read I had a trial listed tomorrow. At the last moment it has been pulled from the list. Lack of court time. Again. So tomorrow is a mention and fix. So I can fix my trial for some time during the summer.
Bloody marvellous innit?