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Crown Court Case Preparation

Content

This guidance describes the procedures to be followed and the considerations to be applied when preparing a case for committal to the Crown Court.

Proper Crown Court case preparation will ensure:

  • preparation of cases and instructions to the highest standards of quality and timeliness;
  • reduction of problems at trial;
  • the full recording of significant decisions.

References in this guidance to sections are to the Magistrates Courts Act 1980 unless otherwise specified. References to Rules refer to the Criminal Procedure Rules 2010 unless otherwise specified

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Review

Charges

The reviewing lawyer should read the case in full and make an objective judgement of the evidence before deciding on the appropriate committal charges. It is not sufficient simply to build the case around the original charges.

Statements

Focus on what the case is about when deciding which statements to serve.

In (R v Russell-Jones [1995] Cr App R.538) (Archbold 4-275), the Court of Appeal set out general principles regarding the limits to the prosecution's discretion not to call witnesses who have made statements. Generally speaking the prosecution must call or offer to call all the witnesses whose statements have been served at committal.

Prosecutors should therefore include in the statement bundle only the witnesses on whom the prosecution will rely at the trial. Serving inappropriate statements can weaken or damage a case.

Prosecutors must ensure that the following is excluded:

  • irrelevant material;
  • inadmissible material;
  • material which is merely prejudicial and not probative.

The written statements must comply with the requirements of section 5B of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980:

  • the statement must be signed by the witness;
  • there must be a declaration of truthfulness;
  • the statement must be served properly on other parties; and
  • there must be no objections to the tendering of the statement in evidence.

There are further conditions concerning:

  • witnesses who are under 18;
  • witnesses who cannot read;
  • provision of copies of exhibits.

There are provisions for particular circumstances, such as:

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Witnesses

Corroboration

Always look for corroboration. If other witnesses are present or named then they should make statements or there should be an explanation for the lack of a statement.

The police should be asked to explain any inconsistencies in the statements or if necessary to give witnesses the opportunity to make further statements clarifying the discrepancies.

Name and Address of Witness

Care should be taken to ensure that the address of a witness does not appear on the face of the witness statement.

Careful consideration will need to be given to the preparation of the prosecution case papers if there is real concern as to the safety of the witness, such as in cases of anonymity, if their name is revealed.

Order of Witnesses

The order of the statements should follow the chronological events of the case to ensure it as easy as possible for the court and jury to follow the 'story'.

Although there is no rigid rule the following order is suggested:

  • plan drawer;
  • photographer;
  • victims/eye witnesses;
  • arresting/interviewing officers;
  • police expert witnesses (SOCO, fingerprint officer);
  • professional/expert witnesses (doctor, forensic scientist).

Convictions

Convictions or cautions recorded against prosecution witnesses must be disclosed to the defence, but only where they satisfy the test for disclosure under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA). They must be reasonably capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused, or assisting the case for the accused. (Refer to Disclosure of Previous Convictions, elsewhere in this guidance).

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Foreign Language Statements and Exhibits

A statement taken from a witness in a foreign language must be written in the foreign language and signed by the witness.

The interpreter must then translate the foreign language statement and make a witness statement producing the English translation and referring to the foreign language statement as an exhibit under his/her exhibit reference. (Refer also to Interpreters elsewhere in the Legal Guidance).

The interpreter's own statement must confirm that the foreign language statement incorporates the appropriate preamble and declaration under section 9 CJA 1967 and subsection 5A(3)(a) and 5B MCA, 1980.

The foreign language statement and the interpreter's statement are both included in the statement bundle and the translation of the foreign is included in the exhibit bundle (R v Raynor 165 JP 149, CA; [2000] TLR 669.)

Where the defendant has been questioned by the police through an interpreter it is the interpreter who must be called to give evidence about the content of the interview. For a police officer to do so would breach the rule against hearsay (R v Attard (1958) 43 Cr App R 90.)

In the case of a tape-recorded interview of the defendant, the interpreter should make a statement to confirm:

  • presence at the interview;
  • that the content of the interview was accurately translated.

(Refer also to Tape Recorded Interviews, elsewhere in the Legal Guidance).

In the case of an interview with the defendant, through an interpreter, by way of contemporaneous notes, the notes should be made by the interpreter. If the notes were made by a police officer then the interpreter, to be able to make use of the notes as a memory aid, must have checked and signed the notes as they were being recorded.

If the defendant makes a statement under caution in a foreign language, the interpreter should exhibit both the foreign original and the translation. The interpreter should confirm in his statement that the defendant understood the words of the caution.

Similar considerations will arise with regard to a defendant who is hearing or speech impaired.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Code C, section 13 contains detailed provisions with regard to the use of interpreters for detained persons.

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Exhibits

As with statements, only relevant exhibits should be served and it is vitally important that continuity is proved. Lack of continuity, especially in cases involving drugs or stolen property can be fatal to a prosecution. (Refer to Exhibits, elsewhere in the Legal Guidance).

The witness responsible for the exhibit must produce it in their statement, using their initials; e.g. John Smith finding a knife must identify and exhibit it as JS/1.

Anyone who subsequently handles or deals with the item must use the original designation. Any mistakes or omissions must be dealt with by further evidence.

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Unused Material

The handling of unused material is an important and sensitive subject. Caseworkers and prosecutors need to be familiar with the detailed guidance provided elsewhere Refer to Disclosure of Unused Material and Disclosure of Material to Third Parties elsewhere in the Legal Guidance.

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Service

The CPS will serve the committal documents/prosecution case on:

  • the police;
  • the magistrates' court/Crown Court;
  • the defendant or his solicitors.

In indictable only offences and indictable offences linked with either way offences the material sent initially to the Crown Court is unlikely to be the complete prosecution case because of the tight time scales. A date is set at the first Crown Court hearing for service of the prosecution case.

If the defendant faces a murder charge a copy of the prosecution case will be required for the prison psychiatrist preparing the court medical report.

The Probation Service are supplied with documents to prepare pre-sentence reports.

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