John Halewood-Dodd column

John Halewood Dodd.
John Halewood Dodd.

We now seem to be plagued by additional, often overly cumbersome, procedures that make our everyday working practices so much more difficult.

The legal profession, with new legislation being introduced on an increasingly regular basis, and all of the stops and checks in respect of protocol and procedure, seems to be at the forefront of this over-bureaucratic way of life.

The amount of paperwork that we now, both defence and prosecution, have to complete in criminal cases is almost criminal in itself.

The effect of this is that it is having an adverse effect on how cases are run. Many of us predicted that this would happen when these additional levels of work were imposed at the same time as the swathing cuts to funding.

You don’t have to be to be Albert Einstein to foresee that more work with less resource to fund it is a recipe for disaster. It would seem that cases are now coming to light to illustrate that the proverbial really is beginning to hit the fan.

One case hit the headlines this week when the Judge sitting at Aylesbury Crown Court, frustrated by delays that he attributed to the local Crown Prosecution Service, described the situation as a “shambles”.

He went on to say that it was leading to a “massive implosion into the taxpayers’ fund”. A fine example of the end result of unreasonably expecting the Prosecution to do so much more but not providing adequate funding to enable them to do so.

Many lawyers are doing what they can to illustrate that this shortsighted way of thinking is wrong. In the more complex Crown Court cases Barristers have refused to accept such briefs as they, by their very nature, require massive amounts of work to be done but the government cut the fees payable for such cases by 30 per cent last December.

In one case, a £4.5 million fraud trial, the defendants were left without representation when there were no lawyers willing to take the case. This left the Judge with no alternative but to stay the proceedings (throw the case out.)

This cannot be allowed to continue as more and more cases are likely to end this way unless the issue is properly addressed.