Well now we know. a press release from the MoJ was released this morning announcing the new Golden Dawn for the Criminal Justice System (CJS)

I quote:

“The Criminal Justice Board has been set up to take a whole system approach to tackling issues across the criminal justice system (CJS).

It will set and deliver the new action plan for the (CJS) efficiency programme, which aims to modernise and reform the CJS into ‘a simpler, swifter and more transparent service which meets the needs of victims and the public.”

“It will also provide accountability, co-ordination across the CJS and will help overcome operational barriers.”

Note those phrases in bold, “whole system approach.” and “across the CJS.”

To the average reader you might think that was intended to convey the idea that the whole system was going to be examined from all angles. and who better to assist in such an examination than all those engaged in the CJS?

So let us look at those who are listed on the MoJ website as being included in this august new body.

Again I quote: “The Criminal Justice Board is made up of operational leaders across the CJS.”

And who are they exactly?

Membership of the Board includes:
  • Damian Green, Minister for CJS and Policing (Chair)
  • Helen Grant, Minister for Courts and Victims
  • Oliver Heald, Solicitor General
  • Baroness Doocey
  • Baroness Newlove, Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses
  • Winston Roddick Qc PCC for North Wales
  • Frances Done, Youth Justice Board
  • Alex Marshall, College of Policing
  • Peter Lewis, Crown Prosecution Service ( Peter has spent his entire career prosecuting on behalf of the public.)
  • Peter Handcock, HM Courts & Tribunals Service
  • Mark Castles, Association of Police & Crime Commissioners
  • Helen Edwards, Justice Policy Group, MoJ
  • Stephen Rimmer Crime & Policing Group, Home Office
  • Kevin McGinty, Attorney General’s Office
  • Jim Barker-McCardle, ACPO CJS Lead
  • Matthew Coats, Legal Services Commission
  • Michael Spurr, National Offender Management Service
  • Keith Bristow, National Crime Agency
The following member of the judiciary sits on the Board as an observer
  • Lord Justice Gross, Senior Presiding Judge & Chair of the Criminal Justice Council

Now see if you can spot a single member of this Government Quango with any recent court experience at Magistrates or Crown Court level. (No disrespect of course intended to Gross LJ.)

Please don’t waste too much of your valuable time. There are none, or if I’m wrong I welcome correction from @MoJGovUK

But that is not really the half of it.

The purpose of this Quango is to “modernise and reform the CJS into ‘a simpler, swifter and more transparent service which meets the needs of victims and the public.”

The hub of the CJS is not Danny Alexander’s desk at the Treasury,  contrary to popular belief in the MoJ and CPS, but courtrooms around the country, be they Magistrates or Crown Courts.

And those most familiar with their workings, and shortcomings, are those who practise there every working day. I have a little list:

Lawyers, magistrates, judges, probation officers, witness care staff, members of professional interpreter organisations. These are all the people who experience from day to day, the frustration of waste of time and resources caused by the most common issues.

And lest there be any doubt as to what the most common issues causing delay really are, we need go no further than the MoJ’s OWN figures:

Court Statistics Quarterly
July to September 2012

What were the reasons they found for delay in the Magistrates Court in the reference period?

“The main reasons for ineffective trials in the magistrates’ courts in the third
quarter of 2012 were due to court administrative problems (27 per cent of
all ineffective trials), absence of the defendant (20 per cent of all ineffective
trials) and the absence of a prosecution witness (16 per cent of all
ineffective trials).”

And the Crown Courts?

“In the third quarter of 2012, absence of a prosecution witness accounted for
22 per cent of ineffective trials. Other reasons for ineffective trials included
court administrative problems (20 per cent), the absence of defendants (20
per cent), the prosecution not being ready (17 per cent) and the defence not
being ready (12 per cent).”

The single criticism levelled at the defence in all of this lies in their failure to be ready in 12% of the ineffective trials. Not all trials, just the ineffective ones, which themselves comprised only 13% of all crown Court Cases.

In other words, and maths is not my strongpoint, a mere 1% of Criminal trials are ineffective as a result of shortcomings by the defence.

A reasonable conclusion to draw, one might think, is that defence lawyers, on the whole, are pretty good when it comes to getting cases in order for trial.

If that’s right then they might also be pretty good at advising others on how to do the same when they are trying to “modernise and reform the CJS into ‘a simpler, swifter and more transparent service which meets the needs of victims and the public.”

It is interesting to note that no separate category has been included in the MoJ analysis for failure to provide interpreters, The Nrpsi could give a couple of hints on that one I suspect.

So let’s go back to my little list of those who might be in a position to help;

“Lawyers, magistrates, judges, probation officers, witness care staff, members of professional interpreter organisations.”

Again, let’s see how many of these groups are represented on the CJB Quango?


Plenty of politicians, members of other quangos, representatives from Police bodies, the CPS, Justice Policy Group at the MoJ (indispensable that one), the LSC of course, and the Chief Exec of HMCTS, who doubtless spends every working day in a court.

So no lawyers at all, AND NOT A SINGLE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DEFENCE LEGAL COMMUNITY IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM, though it is stuffed full of those in high places in organisations tasked with investigation and prosecution.

And yet the figures themselves show how much more efficient defence lawyers are.

I tire of railing at the endemic inefficiencies of the CPS, partly because we have heard them all before and experience them daily, and partly because I have so much sympathy with the tired and depressed faces I see every day in Crown Court CPS offices. It’s not the workers’ fault!

Their morale is at rock bottom, they are woefully under resourced, and they simply cannot do their job as they would wish to do it.

Word reaches us now that they are even under instructions to concentrate on billing finished cases to improve CPS year end figures. doubtless for yet another accounting exercise aimed at misleading the public.

Now along comes a Quango of the great and the good, who no doubt posed for their photo opportunity this morning before beginning “work.”

As CrimelineLaw Tweeted earlier

“The similar Carter group under the AG Goldsmith met only once. I suspect this will meet same fate.” I’m tempted to say i hope he’s right!

And only now, or 31 mins before I type this, having just looked at my timeline, @MojGovUK have tweeted “We’ll be inviting group of defence practitioners to work with us diagnosing inefficiencies in the system in the near future”

Well it’s nice to be such a valuable afterthought. Near future? Why not now?

Simple answer is you just realised you dropped a clanger and are desperately trying to cover your tracks.

The MoJ Agenda could not be clearer. Cut costs and marginalise defendants and their part in the trial process.

We welcome their excuses on this blog.



  1. Pingback: Suggestions for Mr Grayling – 5 ½ simple ways to improve efficiency in the CJS | Life in the bus lane

  2. Why ‘diagnosing inefficiencies’ why not ask those who are involved how to improve the system. Without the co-operation of all parties the system will collapse.

  3. I wish that I could say that I was surprised by the completely cavalier and contemptuous attitude shown by the MoJ over this, but I’m not.

    The only thing that can be said is that it is at least clear from the start that this is not a serious attempt by Mr Green to improve the Criminal Justice System for victims, defendants, witnesses and other Court users, so we do not have to waste time trying to engage with it.

    The Bar has got plenty of ideas to improve the system, given we are working with it every day. It is unfortunate that that huge resource has been spurned and, with it, any goodwill that may have otherwise existed.

    • Lovely piece and amusing, thank you, but you forgot to mention the numbers of Magistrates Courts which have shut and are shutting putting more pressure on any body working in the justice system, lawyers, court staff, interpreters etc…

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