...is justice denied, as any lawyer worth his salt will be able to tell you. Let me know what you think of this all-too-typical scenario, plucked from the mire of cases sloshing about within the OBM.
For those unfamiliar with "the OBM", it's not an oblique reference to a recently elected chap from across the pond, it's the Optimum Business Model -- see further down this page for a full explanation.
This case involved harassment of a partner, phone calls, unwanted visits, etc., etc., so was classed as occurring in a domestic context. Such matters are referred to as "DV" cases, short for "domestic violence", even where physical violence is entirely absent.
Mrs called the police, Mr was arrested, and held by the police overnight, to be produced before a bench. He was remanded in custody on his first appearance the following morning. So far, so utterly typical.
A week later he was bailed. Six days after that, a case management hearing (CMH) was held, and no primary disclosure had taken place -- staffing issues mean there simply aren't enough lawyers to go round the cases. A week later a pre-trial review was held, primary disclosure was served, and the following day his bail conditions were varied. 12 days after that, the first trial listing rolled around.
She turned up, which is relatively unusual in and of itself, and the matter was adjourned, as court time being hard-pressed, and there were further disclosure issues to resolve before beginning the trial.
Six weeks after the first go at a trial, a second pre-trial review was held, and the CPS file didn't turn up. The following day it did, and a date was set for trial. 19 days after the third pre-trial review, the fourth pre-trial review was held. Still with me?
This date was set one week before the trial, to ensure that everything was done. I had the pleasure of opening this file on the eve of pre-trial review number 4, and finding that not one jot or iota of work had been done.
I spent the better part of a day lashing the case into order as best I could, served almost a dozen statements, expert reports in relation to mobile telephones, medical reports and photographs, as well as a bad character application. Of course, I wasn't going to be presenting the case in court, so I drafted a note to try and summarise the four-inch-thick bundle as best I could.
So, if you were defending him, what do you do? Is it fair to try a defendant with so much evidence served only a week before a trial? How impressed is the complainant going to be with the progress of this matter? How impressed is the bench going to be, for that matter? First appearance to second attempt at trial; 102 days, give or take some atrocious mental arithmetic.
I wish this was an isolated case, but the truth is that I am often instructed to apply for an adjournment in order to rectify some abject failure to serve a particular item, usually in the face of weary disbelief from the bench, and in the face of a correspondence file bulging with written requests for said item from the defence.
Unfortunately, "More Lawyers!" has never been a vote-winning slogan, and so we will continue to be cut, rationalised, consolidated, and streamlined until the whole thing collapses about our ears.