Case study: Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR)

The work produced by two of our centre members, Professor Ed Cape and Dr Tom Smith, has made a significant impact by contributing to the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR).

During 2014/2015, Ed and Tom carried out research into the practice of pre-trial detention (PTD) in England and Wales. This dealt with bail and detention in custody prior to trial or conviction and was part of an EU-funded study led by Fair Trials International (FTI), a human rights organisation, in ten countries.

The project’s aim was to assess the practice of PTD across the EU, find examples of good and bad practice, and to make policy recommendations to EU and domestic institutions. Ed and Tom conducted a desk-based review of PTD practice and procedure, surveyed criminal defence practitioners, observed PTD hearings, reviewed prosecution case files, and interviewed judges, magistrates and prosecutors. The research findings were published on the UWE Bristol research repository early in 2016 and incorporated into FTI’s regional report, which was presented to the European Parliament in May 2016.

One key finding from the research was that courts took very little time to consider vital decisions about the liberty of unconvicted individuals – particularly early on where evidence and disclosure might be incomplete. Additionally, the research also suggested that adequate time is often not available for the defence to consider information about the prosecution case prior to a PTD hearing. As such, the final research report recommended that the CrimPR should be amended to compel courts to ensure adequate time is given to making decisions regarding PTD and that the defence should have the time they require prior to hearings.

In March 2016, the CrimPR Committee responded positively to the report findings and expressed interest in incorporating its recommendations into the Rules. Ed and Tom worked with them, and in February 2017, the Committee amended Parts 8 (Initial Details of the Prosecution Case) and 14 (Bail and Custody Time Limits) of the CrimPR to:

  • impose on the court a duty to ensure that if information about the prosecution case is supplied later than usually is required, then the defendant, and any defence representative, is allowed sufficient time to consider it;
  • explicitly to require that information provided for the court in bail proceedings must be provided for the defendant, too;
  • to require the court itself to take sufficient time in bail proceedings to consider the parties’ representations and reach its decision.

The Committee acknowledged the significant contribution of Ed and Tom’s report. This successful outcome highlights the real impact research can have, particularly through constructive dialogue with policymakers.

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