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Consultation on delegated powers

Criminal Procedure Rules Committee response


28 November 2019
Consultation on delegated powers

The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee (CPRC) has responded to the consultation on the proposed changes to the rules delegating functions to authorised court officers. The main MA recommendation (supported by the majority of other respondents) was for there to be a list of functions that can be delegated in magistrates’ courts, as opposed to a list of functions that cannot be delegated, and this has been agreed, which is very positive.

Other than that, there are only a few changes to the proposed rules relevant to magistrates:

  1. The following two functions were removed from the list of functions that can be delegated: 
    - Accepting the withdrawal of a guilty plea prior to sentence, if the prosecutor agrees. 
    - Setting aside a conviction, or varying or rescinding an order, under section 142 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, if both parties agree.
  2. The rule allowing the court to prohibit a specific function being delegated to an authorised court officer in an individual case has been amended slightly, including deletion of the phrase, ‘except in an emergency’.
  3. Our point that an authorised court officer should not be carrying out a function if a bench is available was considered, but the CPRC decided that distribution of judicial business between magistrates, DJs, and authorised court officers should be left to Criminal Practice Directions, guidance and local arrangements.

We were not alone in strongly making the point that the provision set out in the rules for all other courts that allowed reconsideration of decisions made by authorised court officers should also be included in 2.8 for magistrates’ courts. The CPRC said they considered this point very carefully, given the status of those organisations recommending it, but decided that it was unnecessary as other legal provisions (including case law) were sufficient for ensuring that a court could reconsider a decision when the case first comes before them.

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