As promised, I now move to a review of the infamous "OBM", following hot on the heels of my last post -- the anger has carried me through the evening, my faithful companion has long since started dozing on the sofa, all four legs stretched out, looking like a smaller, less stripy version of that ultimate colonial trophy, a large dead-stripy-animal-rug.
The Optimum Business Model, which is so far proving somewhat sub-optimal, is as follows. Rather than having a number of lawyers each being responsible for a number of files, according to specialism (stop giggling at the back), talent (I mean it), working hours (right, stand outside), the CPS has decided, after lengthy and expensive consideration, that the best thing to do, is to not allocate any files at all. So we all toddle off to court three days a week, and on the fourth day, we sit at a desk known as the OBM desk. To one side is a pile of files, all with varying amounts of work required. To the other, an efficient team of crack administrators (who said you could come back in?).
I dump myself into the sagging chair (you need a back complaint to get a decent chair out of this lot) and begin. I may need to respond to a defence letter, I may have to decide whether to proceed with a prosecution when a victim doesn't want to know, I may have to decide whether to apply for a witness summons, I may have to serve primary disclosure, or I may even have to dewarn witnesses because Billy has now remembered that yes, despite his complicated and involved story about Shandeece and Tyrone's big bust up, and why the baby had its ears pierced, and why he ain't done nuffink, he did as a matter of fact punch Johnny and nick his shiny iPod, and would like to have some credit for owning up to it and pleading guilty six months later and three days before the trial, please.
Of course, under what I will call a "traditional" work allocation system, as used in defence firms the length and breadth of the country, I would be at least familiar with a file, and simple queries can be resolved in seconds. Under the OBM, life becomes one endless round of surprises. So I get a letter saying "We represent Fred Splebbins, and note that Jane Splebbins has made a withdrawal statement. Do you intend to proceed with this prosecution? I would be grateful to hear from you by return".
Under the traditional system, I know that I intend full well to continue, because the police saw her injuries, 19 year old Son of Splebbins saw the whole thing, and has had enough of Dad smacking Mum about when he's had a few. Or that I have to throw my hand in because we have no case beyond Mum's bare assertion (and accompanying 10-page list of pre-cons for perverting the course of justice and wasting police time).
So I need to read the file from cover to cover, because I know nothing about it. I need to consider Fred's antecedents, the family circumstances, Jane's views and antecedents, and if I decide we should carry on, I need to know whether we can do without her (considering, of course, recent ECHR and House of Lords jurisprudence on hearsay and victimless prosecutions), or whether I should compel her to attend by way of summons or even warrant.
Which, as you can imagine, adds ever so slightly to my workload. Unsurprised, of course, is the weary defence hack, explaining the basis of an offered plea to the sixth prosecutor to have touched the file.
But what about the coalface? Where intellects collide, or at least bump gently into ignorance, before drifting off into indifference? When I trot up to the local court, have I had the privilege to see any of the briefs I am about to prosecute? Err, no. Sorry, Director. But on the bright side, picking things up at the last minute is excellent practice, and sharpens the mind, or so I'm told.
And the fifth day, of course, is reserved for Crown Court casework, which, for the time being, is allocated properly, and therefore (usually) done properly.
P.S. the old hands will remember "team working", which was the OBM by any other name, and was binned a few years back, and any hands will remember "cradle to the grave", which was a traditional allocation system, and was being pushed as recently as two years ago. Round and round we go...