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Wednesday, 15 April 2020 14:04

Review of prosecutions

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Prosecutors have been told to think carefully about the pressures that Covid-19 is placing on the criminal justice system when they make charging decisions. Fresh guidance published by the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday states that serious cases should be prioritised to manage the impact of the pandemic and all options should be explored for less serious offences.

Max Hill QC, director of public prosecutions, said the public should be confident that justice will be done ‘but we cannot ignore the unprecedented challenge facing the criminal justice system’.

The guidance states that the majority of ongoing trials have stopped because of problems with victims, witnesses, defendants, advocates and jurors attending. Social distancing rules mean courts cannot operate like normal. The Coronavirus Act 2020 has extended the use of live links in criminal proceedings, but there are ‘significant challenges’ for fully virtual courts and juries are excluded from using live links.

The pandemic is expanding the pipeline of cases waiting to be heard and case progression is likely to be delayed. Prosecutors are told that each case that enters the system will expand the pipeline and delay further.

They should consider whether out-of-court disposals could be appropriate, and whether a guilty plea to some charges or to a less serious offence would enable the court to pass a sentence that reflected the gravity of the offence. Consideration should be given to time spent in custody, age and maturity. Where appropriate, they should engage with defence representatives.

For full article https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/cps-to-downgrade-less-serious-cases/5103857.article?utm_source=gazette_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS+downgrades+cases+%7c+Appeal+offer+for+struck-off+junior+%7c+Remote+hearings%3a+new+normal%3f_04%2f15%2f2020

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