For those that who’s main focus of criminal practice is the criminal trial, Archbold or Blackstones will still remain as the main book to pack on trial day, but this is a good adjunct to one of those, and will be of more use 95% of the time. It is for the busy criminal solicitor where this book truly comes into its own.
It doesn’t pretend to have the depth or minutiae of the weightier tomes, and it won’t help you with a complex legal argument. But that’s not necessarily a criticism – this is the book that you can have in your office and your bag to check anything that comes up, whenever or wherever you are.
It’s coverage is very much cradle to grave, starting at the police station and ending up with (hopefully) an acquittal, or failing that the CCRC and the Court of Appeal. It is practical, with the focus being on procedure and what you need to know about an issue as and when it arrives.
Much of this will already be known to us, or at least should be known from the PSRAS/PCQ/MCQ training, but it is helpful to have it set out in bite sized chunks – no topic is more than a page or so long, for ease of reference.
I tested this by reference to a question a colleague asked on fitness to plead in the magistrates’ court. In less than a minute it was possible to flag up the relevant sections and come up with a checklist for preparing and conducting the hearing. As stated, if you end up in a complex legal argument you will need to hit the library (or at least the internet), but if you need to cover yourself and get the lowdown on any particular issue, this will cover all the bases.
There are also good sections on legal aid (and funding in general) and the administrative side of practice, with helpful extracts from the General Criminal Contract. Although this, like the rest of the book, is aimed at solicitors rather than barristers, it may be that these sections will actually be of more use to the bar in giving an insight into how solicitors work in practice and the pressure that they’re under.
A good part of the book is the Appendices that have the sample forms and extracts of the Law Society Practice Notes (as well as pertinent extracts from the CPR and Practice Directions). It is stuff that it is all online of course, but it’s good to have it all in one place and even for the most tech savvy, sometimes it’s easier to have it flagged up. And it still works in the darkest of police stations where the internet doesn’t penetrate.
It will (rightly) never be advertised as such, but it is a book that would help people representing themselves to navigate the tactics and procedure of the criminal courts. It may be that the a few copies should be ordered by the prison libraries.
At just shy of 60 quid, it couldn’t be described as cheap, but it certainly is good value compared to some of the practitioner texts out there. And if you do get it, it’ll certainly be well thumbed by the time the 5th edition comes out.
The book is available from the Law Society Bookshop