Pre-trial procedure - The Criminal Procedure Rules 2015
1. On the 5th of October 2015 the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 (‘the Rules’) replaced the Criminal Procedure Rules 2014, the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 and the Criminal Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2015.
2. The new Rules:
- substantially rearrange the structure and numbering of the previous Criminal Procedure Rules, and,
- include new rules about the following matters that will impact on our prosecutions:—
- the duty of the parties to criminal proceedings, in Part 3 of the Rules
- pre-trial hearings in the Crown Court, also in Part 3
- time limits for objecting to written witness statements (in Part 16), and the circumstances in which written witness statements must be read aloud (in Parts 24 and 25)
- the procedure to follow where there are statutory restrictions on the cross-examination of a witness by an unrepresented defendant, in Part 23
- directions to the jury in a Crown Court trial, in Part 25
- retrial after acquittal, in Part 27
- representatives, and changes of representative, in Part 46, and
- make changes to the rules about—
- the overriding objective (Part 1)
- the definitions of terms, and references to the Rules (Part 2)
- service of documents (Part 4)
- making applications and giving notices by electronic means (Part 5)
- initial details of the prosecution case (Part 8)
- directions for live links for witnesses (Part 18)
- expert evidence (Part 19)
- information for jurors (Part 26)
- applications to remit fines and charges (Part 30) and
- include up to date references to other legislation, and make amendments needed because of the other changes listed above.
3. What follows is a brief description of some of the key changes introduced by the Rules that will impact on the work to be done by an inspector
- Rule 2.3 (References to legislation, including these Rules) now provides for a standard way of referring to the Criminal Procedure Rules (‘CrimPR’) in the criminal courts.
- Rule 3.3 (The duty of the parties) now imposes on the parties to every case an explicit duty to communicate with each other so as to find out whether the defendant is likely to plead guilty or not guilty; what is agreed and what is likely to be disputed; what information, or other material, is required by one party of another, and why; and what is to be done, by whom, and when.
- Amendments to the rules in Part 4 (Service of documents) make new provision about service by electronic means; remove the restrictions that have applied until now on serving some documents by methods other than post or personal delivery; and make new provision about service of documents on parties’ legal representatives and advocates.
- Rule 4.6 (Service by electronic means) now allows for electronic service not only by sending a document to the recipient, for example by email, but also by depositing a document at a website address to which the recipient can gain access, for example by using a password that she or he has been given.
- Rule 5.1 (Applications, etc. by forms or electronic means) now allows for applications and notices, and for other information needed by the court, to be submitted by electronic means where arrangements have been made for that to be done.
- Rule 8.1 (Initial details of the prosecution case; When this Part applies) is amended so that the rules in Part 8 now will apply in all cases as they begin in a magistrates’ court, irrespective of the type of offence. As part of the new case management arrangements more information will be provided in a case in which the prosecutor does not expect the defendant to plead guilty than in a case in which a guilty plea is expected.
- Rule 16.4 (Written witness statement in evidence) now sets the time limits for objecting to written witness statements served by another party for use in evidence under section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967.
- Rule 19.2 (Expert evidence; Expert’s duty to the court) now requires an expert witness, as part of her or his duty to the court, to help the court in some of the same ways as a party to the case, by complying with directions (for example, as to the time by when a report must be served), and by warning the court of any significant failure to act as required by a direction (for example, by warning of substantial delay in the preparation of a report).
4. The Rules are referred to in the relevant sections of the Enforcement Guide and can be found on the Ministry of Justice Website.