Advocates hope for listing change

The Law Society is attempting to ensure that new listing arrangements in the Crown Courts suit solicitor advocates.

The advocates have complained it is almost impossible for them to conduct criminal trials when courts fail to fix dates.

But new arrangements for plea and direction hearings, so far tried in three courts, are to be implemented nationally early next year.

Roger Ede, secretary of the society's criminal law committee, says: “Our concern is to ensure any lasting arrangements which come out are acceptable to solicitor advocates. We want to draw on the experience of the three pilot courts and feed that information to solicitors on local steering groups.

“We want to ensure that the arrangements enable solicitor advocates to make use of their rights of audience.”

Peter Britton, of King's Lynn firm Hawkins, says: “With proper screening arrangements it should be possible to fix a trial.”

“It is all very well to think you can run a Crown Court system on 24 hours' notice because you can always get a barrister from a set of chambers. But it is almost impossible for a solicitor advocate to be available at the drop of a hat.”