A new initiative to ensure that complex High Court cases are kept within reasonable time limits has been launched by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk.
The first High Court Practice Note for this year includes a protocol that is the result of collaboration between the judiciary, the Crown Office and the legal profession. The Protocol aims to ensure that trials involving complex crimes, or multiple accused, are kept within reasonable time limits. This will promote best use of public resources and enable a jury to better remember and assess evidence.
The Protocol calls for judges to manage cases from ‘cradle to grave’ with an early, detailed understanding of their complexities.
Primarily aimed at cases likely to last eight weeks or more, it calls for:
- prosecutors to provide an early outline of key facts and evidence
- defence agents to provide an early statement
- better use of uncontroversial evidence being agreed in advance of trial
- better use of focused evidence during trial.
This will enable the Court to address the real issues of dispute in a case.
“Ultimately, as the text of the protocol explains, ‘the judge will try to generate a spirit of co-operation between the court and the advocates on all sides. The expeditious conduct of the trial and a focusing on the real issues must be in the interests of all parties’,” said Lady Dorrian. “I sincerely hope that these new measures will be received in a similar spirit, and that their implementation will encourage commitment and creativity in lengthy and complex proceedings in our criminal courts in a fair and efficient manner.”
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