Criminal Law Committee Report

Matt O’Brien

Committee Chair

I write this report just a few months into my third year as chair of the Criminal Law Committee. Refreshing my memory of that report, the absence of any reference to the events of the last 15 months is striking. During the pandemic, the Committee has worked harder than ever for the benefit of the BLS membership and criminal law practitioners.

During last year, much of my time as chair, and that of the Committee, was taken up by engaging with other criminal justice stakeholders to develop models of best practice in a rapidly changing criminal justice environment. Court closures and reduced sitting hours during the pandemic have significantly exacerbated the backlog of work to be dealt with by the courts.

In addition to the Local Criminal Justice Board, the Committee represented members’ interests on regular stakeholder meetings with the police, HMCTS and the senior judiciary. We fed back members’ concerns effectively and in some areas, including the expansion of Saturday courts and members’ attendance at police stations during the pandemic, were able to meaningfully contribute to policy change.

We have continued to respond to consultations on wider topics in the criminal justice system, including the Justice Select Committee and the Independent Criminal Legal Aid Review, both on the important topic of criminal legal aid reform. This remains a vital area of reform, if there is to be a viable model for the provision of criminal law advice and representation in the future. The Committee will play its part in contributing to that important work as it progresses this year.