What is a PTPH – Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing?
All cases sent to the Crown Court after 5 January 2016 will be sent to a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing.
Q: Why has there been a change?
A: There has, for some time, been a feeling within the legal system that Preliminary Hearings (in cases where not guilty pleas are expected) have been held too early in the process and that Plea and Case Management Hearings (PCMHs) are either not necessary or do not take place at a time when they could be most effective. This has resulted in lots of different hearings. Added to this are the different local practices and recording methods, which has resulted in court orders not being clearly communicated to those who must act on them, which in turn has resulted in non-compliance. The new PTPH means the adoption of a single national process to be used in all Crown Courts.
Q: When does the PTPH take place?
A: The PTPH takes place a little later than Preliminary Hearings, usually 28 days after sending, unless the Resident Judge orders otherwise. It occurs after the prosecution has provided available information about the case and obtained details of the availability of likely prosecution witnesses. In most cases, this should be sufficient to enable the court to case manage effectively without the need for a Further Case Management Hearing (FCMH) before trial. The PTPH presumes that the parties will have communicated with each other prior to the PTPH in accordance with the duty of engagement, and that they will continue to do so after the PTPH.
Q: What are the aims of the new system?
A: The overarching aims are as follows:
- a single national process
- robust case management
- a reduced number of hearings
- the earlier resolution of pleas and the identification of the issues of the case
- the maximum participation and engagement by every participant within the system
- effective compliance with the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR); Practice and Court Directions.
Q: I have heard of a new Digital Case System. What is this?
A: Running parallel with the introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing in the provision of the Digital Case System (DCS) to all Crown Courts before the end of March 2016. When the DCS has been fully implemented, there will be no paper files in the Crown Court. All the documents referred to in criminal cases (i.e. indictments, statements, paper exhibits, defence statements, applications and written orders) will be uploaded onto the DCS and will then be accessible to defence lawyers via computers, tablets and smartphones. Paper copies will still be needed, however, for those without representation as well as jurors. Documents will be ‘served’ when they are uploaded onto the system AND a notification sent by email to the party or parties involved. Any paperwork handed over during a hearing will only be ‘filed’ once it has been uploaded onto the DCS.
Q: What is meant by the Common Platform and why is it important?
A: The introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing is a step towards electronic case management and the electronic monitoring of compliance which will be possible with the introduction of the Common Platform. The use of a single national process with largely standard directions is essential to the future development of systems for the court, prosecution and defence that work one with another.
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