Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) Annual Report 2013-14

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Introduction by the Lord Chief Justice

I am delighted to be introducing this, the eighteenth review of the work of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), but my first as Lord Chief Justice. It has been an interesting and active year. The Vice President of the Court, Hallett LJ, and I would like to express our sincere thanks to all of those who have enabled the Court to fulfil its responsibilities to the administration of criminal justice, particularly the legal and administrative staff of the Courts who have worked tirelessly throughout the year in difficult circumstances.

Lord Judge made a remarkable impact on the criminal justice system and led the judiciary of England and Wales during a period of unprecedented difficulties and challenges. It has been a daunting task to follow him.

In my Birkenhead Lecture of October 2013, the first speech I delivered as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, I called for the greater provision of justice outside London and promised that the Courts would do all they could to encourage it. To this end, during the course of the legal year I have sat with the Court of Appeal at Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, and Canterbury. Arrangements are already being made for further sittings out of London during the forthcoming year. These regional sittings have been, on the whole, a great success. They not only provide access to justice without the costs involved in all the parties coming to London but also enable an appeal to be heard in the area where there may be a strong local interest in the case. It is also a great pleasure to both myself and the other Judges to have the opportunity to meet the Crown Court staff who play such a vital role in the administration of criminal justice. In addition to these sittings the Court now sits regularly in Cardiff for one week every term with other Lord Justices of Appeal presiding. These sittings serve to demonstrate the Court’s respect for the separate governance of Wales within the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

The year has once again seen the Court deal with many varied and complex issues. These have included secret trials, the amendments to the dangerousness provisions and matters concerning confiscation. These are discussed in the text of the Review. Two cases however call for special mention. In Achogbuo [2014] EWCA Crim 567 I said that it had become a habit for a number of cases to be brought on the basis of incompetent representation by trial solicitors or trial counsel with many cases proceeding without any enquiry having been made of solicitors and counsel who acted at trial. This often means that the lawyer who brings such an application acts on the allegations of a convicted criminal without any check being made on whether the instructions are accurate. This is impermissible. Before applications are made to this Court alleging incompetence based upon the defendant’s account, lawyers are required to take proper steps to ascertain by independent means, including contacting the previous lawyers, as to whether there is any objective and
independent basis for the grounds of appeal. In McCook [2014] EWCA Crim 734, it was necessary to go further and make clear that henceforth it will be necessary for solicitors and counsel to go to the solicitors and/or counsel who had previously acted to ensure that the factual details put before the Court are accurate. It will only be in exceptional circumstances, likely to be very rare, that this will not need to be done.

Lord Thomas
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales