The dedication of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) to the administration of criminal justice remains impressive. The judiciary and the Criminal Appeal Office staff who support them, have a considerable workload and I am immensely grateful for their continued commitment.
The criminal justice system has faced much criticism in recent times, but it is vital that the integrity of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) is maintained.
Over the year the Criminal Appeal Office received in the region of 5,000 new conviction and sentence applications. The number of applications lodged by litigants in person continues to increase and invariably such applications take up more time and lawyer resources within the Criminal Appeal Office and impose greater strain upon the system as a whole. However, it is important that litigants in person are not seen as a burden on the Court and that they receive access to justice. The steps taken by the Registrar to give additional help and support to litigants in person are to be welcomed.
The Court has heard several high-profile cases including appeals and applications based on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Jogee (in which the Supreme Court changed the law of joint enterprise). Further, the Court has sat in special constitutions to consider and clarify particularly complex areas of the law, including the householder defence in Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, sentencing of historic sexual offences, terrorism and victims of human trafficking.
Disparate and complex sentencing legislation remains a cause for concern for all who work in the criminal justice system. It is currently being addressed by the Law Commission in their work on the draft Sentencing Code. On too many occasions, an unlawful sentence is imposed in the Crown Court and the mistake only noticed by a lawyer in the Court of Appeal Office when an appeal (on other grounds) is lodged. Lawyers from the Criminal Appeal Office have given valuable support to the Law Commission but it is vital that sentences imposed at first instance are lawful and clear.
My particular thanks this year must go to Master Egan QC. For the last 6 years, among many other responsibilities, he has served the Court with vigour and good humour in the demanding role of Registrar. This has involved him in ultimate responsibility for running the office and looking after those who have worked in it, but also discharging a significant judicial function, in particular by identifying the cases which need urgent consideration, or which raise issues of importance to the criminal justice system. He has been held in great respect and with warm affection by us all. His successor, Master Beldam, has a wealth of experience in this jurisdiction and I am confident that we remain in safe hands.
With the Vice-President of the Court, Lady Justice Hallett, I take the opportunity provided by this introduction to express our gratitude to everyone who has enabled the Court to fulfil its functions and
to keep its objectives firmly in mind throughout this year.
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales