Criminal law practitioners are facing very challenging times.
The year started with intense media coverage of failings in disclosure of evidence, following the collapse of several rape cases where digital evidence had not been shared with defence solicitors. The BBC revealed in January 2018 that the number of prosecutions that collapsed because of a failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence had increased by 70% in the last two years.
Come April, members of the criminal Bar began a strike over underfunding of the criminal justice system. Strike action began on 1 April, coinciding with the coming into force of the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). Six weeks later the strikes are continuing and indeed expected to escalate. The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) has highlighted the “significant difficulties” the strikes are causing for solicitors and clients and reports on “unreasonable pressure being placed on firms and defendants in cases where solicitors have been unable to find counsel.” The CLSA is pointing practitioners towards various sources of guidance to help them meet their professional obligations, including the Law Society, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Senior Presiding Judge and their own professional indemnity insurers.
In the circumstances, it probably won’t come as a surprise that younger solicitors are not rushing to practise in this area. In April, the Law Society released a ‘heatmap’ of duty solicitor coverage which showed the ageing profile of criminal defence solicitors across England and Wales. The Gazette’s headline described these practitioners as “facing extinction” because of a lack of younger practitioners opting to take up this work. As the publication of the Government’s LASPO review keeps being pushed back, there is no clear prospect of any change in the legal aid scheme, which has made making a living in this area increasingly hard.
In the face of all of these obstacles, criminal practitioners can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Work must continue and it’s essential that practitioners stay up-to-speed with developments, recent judgments and best practice.
Central Law Training is pleased to present the Criminal Law Conference 2018, which will bring together both prosecutor and defence lawyers practising criminal law.
The conference presents an invaluable opportunity to get up to speed on recent developments and the latest thinking. Supported by comprehensive notes, our expert speakers will take you through all of the important recent developments in criminal practice. The conference agenda includes:
- Disclosure issues for investigators and prosecutors
- Dealing with disclosure deficiencies at the coal face
- The latest developments in law, rules and practice directions
- Treading carefully with terminology
- Victimless prosecutions and effective hearsay submissions
- Significant judgments that will affect your decision making
- An update on sentencing, ancillary orders and costs
To find out more, visit our website: http://www.clt.co.uk/Conference/Criminal-Law-Conference-2018/.
Places are available at a reduced price of £240+VAT (Central Law Training members)/£480+VAT (non-members).