Early case meetings receive mixed reception in Aberdeen
A new type of court meeting introduced last month has received a mixed reaction from solicitors in Aberdeen, the Evening Express reports.
Pre-intermediate diet meetings (PIDMs) came into effect on December 1 in an attempt to help resolve the backlog of cases and reduced the need for attendance at court.
The meetings, held around two weeks before the intermediate diet, allow defence and Crown lawyers to discuss a case with a view to resolving it an earlier stage and avoiding unnecessary court appearances.
They have, however, received a mixed reception.
Gregor Kelly, a partner with Lefevre Litigation, said: “It’s fully appreciated that the PIDM system is designed to reduce footfall in the courts at a time when the virus is once again rife and it is to be applauded in theory to increase communication between crown and defence.
“There have been some initial technical teething problems and it is hoped that these will be ironed out. It is important that both members of the pubic, court staff and legal professionals are kept safe at this difficult time.”
Leonard Burkinshaw, of Burkinshaw Criminal Defence, said: “It does seem like just another layer of bureaucracy that’s not really needed.
“The difficulty with it is because these diets are even earlier, our difficulty is getting the disclosure in time to know what the case if fully about and also speaking to the client within that period of time to get full instructions.
“You’re almost having two intermediate diets. The only positive would be that if you do manage to get the disclosure and speak to your client, at least you’re able to have direct contact with the fiscal.”
Paul Barnett, a partner with George Mathers and Co, said he had experienced difficulties with arranging meetings.
He said: “My thoughts in relation to PIDMs are that the booking procedure is fairly cumbersome and it’s often the case that there are no available slots on the date that the PIDM has been allocated to or it’s not possible to get a time slot when the defence agent is free because of court commitments.
“This is no doubt due to a lack of resources made available to the fiscals service.
“When I have been able to speak to a fiscal then it can often lead to the case being resolved either by the fiscal being persuaded that it’s no longer in the interests of justice for the case to proceed or by an acceptable plea being negotiated but I don’t think the PIDM system is necessary to enable that conversation to take place.
“It has also created confusion about whether the case will actually then call at the intermediate diet, with many instances of an agreement being reached between crown and defence that the case can be dealt with administratively and doesn’t need to call, but the court then takes a different view.
“This makes organising other court commitments extremely difficult. I think the whole idea was well-intended but doesn’t work well, certainly in Aberdeen, principally due to a lack of resources available to both crown and defence.”