Hot Courting Chaos: The new symptom of our ailing criminal justice system

October 30, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

The Criminal Bar has recently warned of the ever-growing phenomenon of “hot courting”, highlighting the negative effect that it has on our justice system and those involved in it.

What does this mean?

In her recent blog post for the Criminal Bar Association, chairwoman Caroline Goodwin QC has highlighted the effect that so-called “hot courting” is having on all of those involved in the criminal justice system.  Hot-courting is a term that describes the use of courtrooms by multiple judges. Flagging up her recent involvement in a trial where a judge was sharing his court with another judge, Goodwin described the practice as “logistical penny-pinching” with long reaching, negative consequences. As a result of the “hot-courting” in her case, a second trial was listed to begin before the first judge had finished summing up. All of this ultimately led to the trials taking far longer with juries being left waiting and witnesses having to make significant rearrangements.  

Goodwin also highlighted consequences for criminal barristers, asking: “Exactly how is counsel expected to make a living? … Financial planning is torn apart. Any improvement in fees is obliterated by the unfair and unpredictable way listing is having to operate”.

These comments come as barristers from across the country have reported the frequent under use of our courts, many of which sit empty because of cost-saving measures. Such measures, which have reduced the number of recorders (judicial officers), have led to instances where 11 out of the 18 courts at the Old Bailey have been left out of use, to take but one example from many.

What's the big picture effect?

The comments and general response to Caroline Goodwin’s blog have only served to confirm the stark reality that faces the state of our criminal justice system. But what can be done about it? As with so many arguments in relation to our under-funded courts, Goodwin suggests that the answer is Government investment. However, with the present government making commitments to spend more public money on policing and prisons, the way forward certainly does not seem so clear for this financially-strained area.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are currently in talks regarding prosecution fees with an update to be published within the next week. Over the summer, the much-publicised strike of criminal barristers over the issue of pay was called off as the CBA struck a deal with the CPS and the Ministry of Justice. We can only hope that our justice system finally gets the injection of funding that it deserves, to protect the interests of both those who are subject to it and, ultimately, those of us who wish to work within it.

Report written by Matthew Wyatt

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