1. On 7th October 2014, The Criminal Procedure Rules 2014 came into force, affecting procedures used in magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court and the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division. The 2014 Rules consolidate The Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 and the two statutory instruments which subsequently amended them.
2. The 2014 Rules are arranged in 11 divisions, to reflect the main stages of a criminal case. This maintains the structure used in the 2013 edition.
3. The courts and everyone involved in criminal cases will be required to pursue the ‘overriding objective’: to deal with cases justly. The Rules provide the courts with explicit powers to actively manage the preparation of criminal cases waiting to be heard so as to avoid delay and promote certainty. Parties are under an obligation to inform the court and each other at once of any significant failure to take any procedural steps required by the Rules.
4. The overriding objective should not alter the way a case progresses. Instead, it should reinforce the obligations on the parties not to obstruct or delay the preparation of the case, or to take unfair advantage of a procedural mistake by the other party. Under the Rules, everyone involved is made responsible for helping to make the case proceed efficiently.
5. The revised rules include, inter alia, changes to the rules regarding allocation, reporting of proceedings, experts reports, financial information to be provided to the court and costs.
6. In order to further the overriding objective, the courts have powers of case management, allowing them to actively manage the preparation of criminal cases. Case management includes the court identifying “real issues” at an early stage; identifying the needs of witnesses; and giving any direction or taking any step to actively manage a case, achieving certainty as to what must be done, by whom, and when, in particular by the early setting of a timetable for the progress of the case and monitoring the progress of the case and compliance with directions.
7. Specific examples of case management could include the court directing that a hearing take place by telephone, or giving a direction without a hearing. The court may require issues to be determined separately and may decide the order in which they are to be addressed. A party can apply to vary a direction.
8. The Rules are referred to in the relevant sections of the Enforcement Guide.
9. The Rules can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.