In brief: Crown Court judges in pre-trial hearings?

Home Secretary Michael Howard is proposing to allow Crown Court judges to hear pre-trial arguments from prosecution and defence counsel before calling a jury. Judges at present have no powers to make binding rulings at pre-trial hearings and have to interrupt trials to hear arguments in the absence of the jury. Under the proposals, which are recommended in the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, Howard intends to “take the clutter out of complex cases, allowing juries to consider the issues before them with greater clarity”.