I have not blogged for a while. Lots of things going on when nothing is happening. Then today I saw a Tweet that came from the AG’s office. This was the Tweet:
Now it may be that I am just a man on the edge of an angry outburst, but if I am, this was the moment Michael Douglas’s air conditioning packed up in his car in the film Falling Down.
I am going to leave aside the asinine “the UK is a global leader in this space in Crown Courts”, I mean that is almost too stupid for words. Or the words that have been used are too stupid to actually mean anything. But I am not going to get worked up about that.
I do not find it that upsetting that the response does not even attempt to answer the question posed by Jeff Smith in Withignton. Well, not that upsetting. It is a politician’s answer. Getting the message that they want asserted, no matter what the question is. Although I remind myself that this is the office of the AG and not a party political broadcast. But I can cope with that via some breathing exercises.
It is the last part of the Tweet. “Jury trials restarted in May, digital tools have been harnessed in over 10,000 cases, and all courts will have re-opened by mid-July.”
Everything back to normal then. Or almost.
Pass me the baseball bat.
I went through every Crown Court list for today’s business. That showed 40 trials either continuing or listed to commence today. Let me put that into context for you. On a perfectly ordinary day I would expect there to be 15 trials either part heard or listed to start in Manchester alone. And that wouldn’t be a busy day. There are 70 court centres that contributed to the published lists I looked through. You can do the maths. If every single one of those buildings only had one trial listed we would improve on the 40 trials by an additional 75%.
This is a tiny fraction of the work that would normally be done. Tiny. And is considerably more than was being heard two weeks ago. The first jury trials were held two months ago and yet we are still not even at 1 for every Crown Court building.
Then I go back to the Tweet. The “look we are back to normal” Tweet. The “we have this crisis beaten” Tweet. And I seethe. Not because I am an angry young (middle-aged) man. Not because I want to be this angry. But because of the utter deceit it involves.
The Criminal Justice System was in crisis well before Covid-19 but I am going to leave this to one side for the moment. Due to the pandemic there are people who will wait in custody for over a year for their trial. There are victims who will have no idea when their cases will be heard. And this Tweet pretends that we are doing more than coping, we are the world champions of Crown Court coping.
We are not.
108 days ago, when the last Crown Court trials were abandoned at the start of lock down, every participant knew the challenges that lay ahead. 108 days later we have barely a trickle of trials. That is 108 days without a credible plan, without honesty as to the true state of the criminal justice system. Every day that goes by the situation deteriorates. We should not be at the early stages of working out how we can maximize the number of trials that can take place. Yet that is exactly where we are.
There is no credible plan for getting the number of cases heard to even half of normal capacity any time soon. There is no credible plan to deal with cases involving more than one defendant in most court centres. What there is is a deafening silence about what we are going to do about it. There is an attempt to make it look like there isn’t a problem. There is little help for the practitioners emerging from lockdown to find they are still locked out of their incomes. There is £100 million for; zoos; £1.5 billion for the arts; and a tenner for everyone that wants to go out for dinner next Monday. But zero to assist the people that will be needed to prosecute and defend these cases that lie at the heart of our democracy, just as soon as someone comes up with a plan as to how those cases can happen.
This deceit, this lack of planning, this cavalier attitude toward the gravest of situations is a scandal. The fault lies fairly and squarely at the heart of the Government.
I have no idea what “but the UK is a global leader in this space in Crown Courts” means. But I do know that the current dereliction being shown by the Government means that Justice and those who serve it, are left in a limbo.
Do not Tweet nonsense. Do something.
was in St Albans yesterday. Senior judge said they cannot hear any trials as no facilities so all cases adjourned to FCMH in September in hope things better or changed (as happened to my case 1st listed for trial in June 2020 following arrest in July 2019)
But hey, £10- off a Nandos (Mon to Wed), so it’s swings and roundabouts, right?