Rollout of better case management (BCM) begins in 8 early adopter courts on 5 October 2015 and new guidance is available to help you understand what this means – see links below.
The initiative is designed to deliver speedier justice, and key changes include:
- a uniform Early Guilty Plea (EGP) scheme
- new Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings (PTPH)
Early adopter courts
The following 8 Crown Court sites will be implementing BCM between 5 October and 9 November 2015.
- Merthyr Tydfil
What do the changes mean?
Defence practitioners and prosecutors have a duty to engage rapidly after a case has been sent to the Crown Court to ensure an effective PTPH.
The aim is secure pleas from defendants as soon as possible and reduce the number of hearings needed to conclude proceedings.
This is underpinned by procedural changes. These mean the new PTPH needs to take place within 28 days of cases being sent from the magistrates’ court.
A further case management hearing (FCMH) will only take place:
- for identified complex cases
- where a judge decides the interests of justice require a further hearing
Key points for defence practitioners
- Every case has an identifiable person responsible for it
- Early and continuous engagement with prosecution to discuss likely pleas and issues in case
- Discussions taking place before the PTPH so that the PTPH form can be completed in advance
Defence practitioners at all Crown Court sites may be approached by the prosecution to discuss cases in a bid to explore resolving them early or narrowing issues for trial. This is part of a “trial blitz” of cases already listed for trial which is taking place between October and December 2015.
Better case management needs to operate digitally and will work together with the digital case system (DCS) when this has been rolled out.
DCS is a web-based digital Crown Court file which will be accessible in court by the judiciary, defence and prosecution.
What about other courts?
All courts will operate BCM from 5 January 2016. Between October 2015 and January 2016 all non-early adopter courts will continue with their current listing patterns. But they will be expected to apply BCM principles e.g. case ownership and engagement to identify pleas and issues.
Engagement events are being held over the coming months and you should contact your local Crown Court site for details.
What is the driver behind these changes?
The BCM initiative builds on Crown Court recommendations to help deliver speedier justice made by Sir Brian Leveson in his ‘Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings’.
The Civil and Criminal Legal Aid (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2015 support these changes and reflect the fact that there will no longer be a plea and case management hearing (PCMH) in Crown Court cases.
Claiming fees during rollout
You can find out more by using the links below, including fee claims while the initiative is being rolled out.
Courts and Tribunals Judiciary: Better Case Management
GOV.UK: Crown Court fee guidance