Legal update emails have been filled for months with warnings about the impact that the Olympics will have on the Court Service. Court buildings are to operate with a reduced number of courtrooms and those courts affected will have their matters heard elsewhere. Crown Courts are also to wind down their trial schedules accordingly. Clients have been warned of the impact that this will have on the listing of their matters and told to expect them to be heard some time later than they ordinarily would be.
In stark contrast however, it has just been announced that the intention is for those crimes linked to the Olympics to be fast tracked through the system; cases will be heard in 24 hours, courts sitting from 8.30 to 1.30pm and 2.30 to 7.30pm; more hearings will be heard by videolink. Justice will be dispensed in much the same way that it was dealt with during the riots hitting much of the country during summer 2011. At the time concerns were raised about automatic challenges to bail applications by the CPS based on policy and not evidence, immediate remands of individuals to custody in cases where a custodial sentence would not be the norm and the speed at which individuals, many of whom were very young, were being asked to make life impacting decisions quickly and without proper time to reflect or seek appropriate advice.
The justification for this “rushed justice” during the riots was that the CPS had to balance the need to deal with matters in a timely fashion with the need to get people accused of rioting off the streets. Despite threats by some groups to cause disruption during the Olympics, it is unlikely that the same justifications for 24 hour justice can be applied during the Olympics when public order and the security of people and property are less likely to be at risk than they were during the widespread rioting of 2011.