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Consultation Proposal to Centralise Greater Manchester Crown Courts Forward Listing at Crown Square

Organisational context

In GM, the current forward listing arrangements for trials are administered from each of the three Crown Courts, Manchester Crown Square, Manchester Minshull Street and Bolton.  Each court has its own forward listing officer responsible for the allocation of trial dates to cases sent from the Magistrates court for each individual site. There is already close collaboration between the three Crown Courts in GM to maximise effective court listing whilst considering the needs of court users, in particular victims and witnesses. To afford more time locally to case management as well as continually reviewing how we can operate more efficiently with better IT, we are proposing that now is the opportunity to create a centralised forward listing team in one location. This is currently the way the Lancashire Crime Cluster operates within the region having introduced this change over the last few years.  Lancashire have commented that as well as reducing duplication of functions across their Crown Courts the centralised approach has the benefit of a more efficient use of sitting days and the opportunity to equalise performance and timeliness between the courts.

Crown Square is suggested as the most appropriate court site to carry out this function, given it is a Tier 1 centre, already responsible for the allocation of GM Class 1 trial dates. It is also the location where the Regional High Court Listing Officer is based with responsibility for management of Regional Class 1 cases requiring a detailed overview of the Cluster workload which a centralised function will provide, therefore ensuring the right staff are located in the right place to support the forward listing considerations for the Cluster. Crown Square also has the required number of skilled staff on site to support a centralised forward listing operation.

This proposal does not affect in any way the crucial role the 3 Daily Listing officer’s provide at each of the three Crown Court sites in GM in supporting the Resident Judge and the Judiciary as well as being the main contact point for local listing with the partner agencies.

The proposal does not change or impact on the current forward listing process which is :

  • Allocation of proposed trial dates and corresponding GM venue provided to the court by the forward listing officer via the court clerk at each site in advance of each PTPH. NB Whilst dates will generally be aligned with current committal areas, there will be an opportunity at this stage for the Judge and parties to consider availability at all GM Crown Courts allowing greater flexibility to offer earlier dates particularly in cases involving vulnerable victims and witnesses.
  • Discussion between Judge, parties and court clerk if proposed trial date is not convenient.
  • Alternative date offered by the court clerk if available.
  • If following discussion, none of the offered available dates are convenient or another date needs to be considered, the court clerk will telephone the forward listing officer or their deputy at Crown Square to discuss and agree.
  • The court will await confirmation of the agreed date which will be stated in open court and enter the court record.

 

Rationale for change

  • The proposal supports the creation of a centralised forward listing role better able to manage the workload, balance performance, utilise courtrooms effectively and flexibly manage the sitting day resource within the GM Cluster because of its Cluster focus.
  • A centralised team will enable us to build on the current skills of those people responsible for the centralised forward listing function, in effect specialising the duty at one site and developing deputies in the role. This has been the experience of other Clusters that have centralised teams in this area.
  • A Cluster focus of forward listing will support a wider appreciation of the differing courthouses, judicial resources and local requirements and again will support a Cluster approach in balancing listing decisions.
  • With the benefits of technology such as XHIBIT, DCS and Skype in the Crown Courts there are the opportunities to work more efficiently and not have repeat functions happening at each individual Crown Court.
  • This current operating model in Lancashire has been in place for 2 years and feedback from that Cluster suggests that more time has been afforded to case management, resulting in a reduction in the average waiting times for trials.

 

People Impact

The proposed change places no staff at risk. It will formally deduct 1FTE Delivery Manager post from GM Crime’s structure. This has already been achieved following a recent promotion of a permanent Delivery Manager to a regional role in the North West Regional Support Unit.  The role is currently being covered on a TRA basis and it is proposed this role will cease and be formally deleted from the Cluster’s resource model if this change is implemented.

There will also be some minor changes to the way some staff work, one change will be the format in which available trial dates are made accessible to the court clerks at Crown Square and Bolton by the forward listing officer.  There will also be a minor process change to how court clerks at Crown Square and Bolton are able to identify trial dates.  The new process offers court clerks a wider pool of available dates thereby lessening the need for direct communication between the courtroom and the forward listing officer during the hearing, reducing delays and making the process more efficient and consistent across the 3 Crown Courts.  This process has been operating well at Minshull Street Crown Court for around 10 years and it is envisaged will be easily incorporated into working practices at Crown Square and Bolton.

The proposal will require the creation of a sufficiently robust and trained support team for the Delivery Manager carrying out this proposed centralised role.  This team will be made up of existing staff resources already available at Crown Square.

 

Indicative timetable for implementation

  • Consultation with Judiciary, staff, CPS, Witness Care Units and defence community commences 28th May 2019
  • Consultation closes 7th June 2019
  • Analysis of responses and publication of outcome by 12th June 2019

Any comments or questions that arise from this consultation should be directed to Clare Loftus, Operations Manager, Minshull Street and Bolton Crown Courts

clare.loftus@justice.gov.uk

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