The first rule of PTPH Club is “don’t adjourn PTPH Club.”
So today I did my first digital PTPH. It was the first PTPH in the list. It was, it transpired, the first digital PTPH that the Judge had conducted.
It did not go well.
Somewhat confusingly my solicitors had been served with a set of papers. And by that I mean actual paper papers. This was something of a fortunate mistake as they had not been invited to the case by the court, so I had not been invited to the case by anyone.
The defendant had been sent to the Crown Court on three matters. Two of the matters had only been sent by the lower court yesterday. Only one case appeared on the list. So I liaised with the ever helpful staff and who rooted out the new cases and invited me to the party (at 10:32 am, with the list starting at 10:30).
I had conducted my videolink conference between 10.11 and 10.26.
Undeterred I gave it go. At 10:38 I had reached a dead end. The first problem was one of the digital cupboards was bare. Nothing. Not a digital sausage. No papers had been uploaded to it. The second problem was that the file which contained the PTPH form had been uploaded as a “read only PDF”. This meant I could not add my bit to it, even if I wanted to.
I told the Judge my difficulties. He tapped away at his laptop and confirmed everything I had told him (which was reassuring, but, as the Judge gave me the times I had been invited etc. it did make me feel like Big Brother was watching me).
So we adjourned for a fortnight.
These are teething problems. The system itself can work. My principle criticism at the moment is you cannot duplicate and amend documents “live” so they have to be downloaded and uploaded. And users of iPads need to be aware of the limitations of their current PDF viewer.
I do have reservations about the timing of the PTPH. I understand the theory behind it. I understand the intention that this is going to produce earlier resolution of matters and cut down hearings. It may be better expressed as a hope. I just cannot see it happening. My worry is that we are going to end up with more trials being listed, rather than less. I see a short term hope that less work is going to have to be done by fully preparing less cases is just going to mean more cases are fully prepared that then go on to be trials.
The PTPH should happen after a lot more work is done. A timetable such as today are obviously not conducive to getting the case resolved. I am not convinced that 28 days is enough either.
Less haste, more efficiency, to adulterate a well known phrase or saying. And whilst we get over the teething problems, there may be a need to break the first rule of PTPH Club quite a lot.