The Lord Chief Justice has published his "Review of the Adminstration of Justice in the Courts." The Review covers the legal year 1st October 2008 to 30th September 2009.
1. Concern is raised (para. 2.12) about the use of out-of-court methods of dealing with offenders - such as fixed penalty notices, cautions and conditional cautions. Workload in most Magistrates' Courts has reduced as a result and this prompted concerns from the Magistrates' Association. Nevertheless, some use of out-of-court disposals can be defended on the basis that they avoid courts being clogged with thousands of minor offences. The problem is that there has been "mission creep" and some serious matters now being dealt with in these ways - e.g. by conditional cautions. In December 2009 the government announced a review of the use of these methods.
2. The sheer amount of new criminal justice legislation is criticised (para. 2.13). An example from 2003 is given - 5 Acts containing 1118 sections, 68 schedules and 2268 paragraphs. Subsequent years have certainly not brought any respite.
3. Means testing in the Crown Court receives the comment from the Lord Chief Justice that it is "liable to bring about an increase in the number of defendants in person. Unrepresented defendants invariably increase the length of trials as they seek to decipher an increasingly complex legislative regime with no professional assistance." (para 2.14).
In Magistrates' Courts, a defendant will only be granted a legal representation order (LRO) if he passes the means test AND if his case passes the interests of justice test.
Means testing in the Crown Court is being introduced nationally in the first half of 2010 - see Legal Services Commission
This is an unacceptable scheme which contains within it the potential to wreak severe financial hardship upon a person who has been acquitted.