New practice directions on Crown Court trials

L A W R E P O R T S : 31 May 1995

Practice Directions on Classification and Allocation of Crown Court Business.

Lord Taylor of Gosforth, Lord Chief Justice.

26 May 1995.

The following directions are among the amendments made by the Lord Chief Justice to directions previously given on the classification and allocation of the business of the Crown Court (see [1987] 3 All ER 1064, [1987] 1 WLR 1671).

Classification

For the purposes of trial in the Crown Court, offences were to be classified as follows.

Class 1: (1) any offences for which a person might be sentenced to death; (2) misprision of treason and treason felony; (3) murder; (4) genocide; (5) an offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911; (6) incitement, attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing.

Class 2: (1) manslaughter; (2) infanticide; (3) child destruction; (4) abortion; (5) rape; (6) sexual intercourse with a girl under 13; (7) incest with a girl under 13; (8) sedition; (9) an offence under section 1 of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957; (10) mutiny; (11) piracy; (12) incitement, attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing.

Class 3: all offences triable only on indictment other than those in classes 1, 2 and 4.

Class 4: (1) wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent; (2) robbery or assault with intent to rob; (3) incitement or attempt to commit any of the foregoing; (4) conspiracy at common law, or conspiracy to commit any offence other than those included in classes 1 and 2; (5) all offences triable either way.

Committals for trial

A magistrates' court, on committing a person for the trial of offences in classes 1 to 3, should specify the most convenient location of the Crown Court where a High Court judge regularly sat, and for offences in class 4 the most convenient location of the Crown Court.

Where a person was committed in respect of a number of offences, all the committals should be to the same location.

Committals for sentencing

Where orders for probation, conditional discharge or community service had been made, or suspended sentence passed, and the offender was committed to be dealt with for the original offence or in respect of the suspended sentence, he should be committed as follows.

If the order was made or the sentence passed by the Crown Court, he should be committed to the location of the Crown Court where the order was made or sentence passed, unless this was inconvenient or impracticable. If he was not so committed and the order was made by a High Court judge, he should be committed to the most convenient location of the Crown Court where a High Court judge regularly sat.

In all other cases he should be committed to the most convenient location of the Crown Court.

Transfer of proceedings

Without prejudice to the provisions of section 76 of the Supreme Court Act 1981, directions might be given for the transfer between one location of the Crown Court to another of (i) appeals, (ii) proceedings on committal for sentence or to be dealt with; (iii) proceedings under the original civil jurisdiction of the Crown Court where this appeared desirable for expediting the hearing or the convenience of the parties. Such directions might be given in a particular case by an officer of the Crown Court or generally, in relation to a class or classes of case, by the presiding judge or judge acting on his behalf.

Allocation of business

Class 1 cases were to be tried by a High Court judge. A case of murder, or incitement, attempt or conspiracy to commit murder might be released, by or on the authority of the presiding judge, for trial by a circuit judge approved by the Lord Chief Justice.

Class 2 cases were to be tried by a High Court judge unless a particular case was released for trial by a circuit judge. A case of rape or a case in any class of serious sexual offence against a child might be released for trial by a circuit judge or recorder approved by the senior presiding judge with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice.

Class 3 cases might be tried by a High Court judge or, in accordance with general or particular directions by a presiding judge, by a circuit judge or recorder.

Class 4 cases might be tried by a High Court judge, a circuit judge, a recorder or an assistant recorder. A class 4 case should not be listed for trial by a High Court judge except with his or the presiding judge's consent.

Appeals from decisions of magistrates and committals to the Crown Court for sentence should be heard by (i) a resident or designated judge; (ii) a circuit judge, nominated by the resident or designated judge, who regularly sat at the Crown Court centre; (iii) an experienced recorder specifically approved by the presiding judges for the purpose; or (iv) where no circuit judge or recorder satisfying these requirements was available and it was not practicable to obtain the approval of the presiding judges, by a circuit judge or recorder selected by the resident or designated judge to hear a specific case or cases.

Applications or matters arising before the trial (including in relation to bail) should, except in courts operating the "plea and directions" scheme, be listed where possible before the judge by whom the case was expected to be tried. Matters to be dealt with after a trial should, where possible, be listed before the judge who originally dealt with the case.

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