Trials in the Central Criminal Court are to be listed for pre-trial hearing three months before the trial date, in an effort to reduce the amount of applications for late adjournments.
Mr Justice Michael White of the High Court told representatives from the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Director of Public Prosecutions that he hoped the changes would come into effect from April this year.
The Central Criminal Court deals with about 150 cases each year, but the late disclosure of material, particularly from third parties, has delayed the start of some trials.
“While this was originally related to reports from medical institutions and/or counselling/ psychiatric or psychological evidence, it is now extended to telephonic evidence and evidence that emanates from smartphones and from social media companies, some of which are based abroad, and mutual assistance provisions are required,” the Law Society says.
Other cases where issues have arisen and have affected the ability of trials to start on time include issues linked to fitness to plead, insanity cases, and cases of capacity.
“Practitioners are asked to identify these issues at an early stage so that they can be addressed by the court, so that the process of preparing the necessary reports can be commenced at an early stage,” the Society says.
Mr Justice White hopes that the new process will reduce the amount of applications for late adjournments, and that the pre-trial hearings can address all outstanding disclosure issues, including delays in receiving material.
Cases listed for trial in six months’ time will also be listed in three months’ time for a pre-trial hearing.
Trials that are due to start in the years 2020 and 2021 will automatically appear in the Court Six Central Criminal Court List three months before the trial date, and will be listed as a pre-trial hearing.
The Law Society is asking practitioners to check the legal diary and to note the position for any trials they have listed in the years 2020 and 2021.