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More live links and BSL interpreters in court

New rules around courts have come into effect from today.

The first of two sets of changes around criminal procedure have come into effect today. Among other amendments, it means that British Sign Language interpreters can now assist deaf jurors. 

The interpreter will be under the same duties of confidentiality as the jurors but must take an oath or affirmation that they will not interfere in, influence or disclose the deliberations of the jury. 

It effectively abolishes the law against allowing a non-juror to accompany jurors while they deliberate. 

Also changing today is an expansion of the opportunity to use live links. The Coronavirus Act 2020 had modified the Crime and Disorder Act and the Criminal Justice Act to allow participants to ‘attend’ court via video or audio electronic link. 

From today those provisions have been replaced by the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act. There is now a new definition of ‘live link’ which corresponds with the new statutory definition. 

Live links can be used in pre-trial, trial, sentencing, enforcement and appeal proceedings. The court can also receive applications, notices, representations and information by letter, live link, email or other electronic communication. 

The provisions apply in more circumstances and to more participants, although they are subject to conditions, including that the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to give a live link direction. 

Although the powers can be used without an application, the rules set out the content of an application and associated procedures if necessary. 

Crown Courts will now also have more powers to send a case back to the magsitrates’ court for either trial or sentencing. This may happen if the available evidence or other circumstances change making a magistrates court more appropriate for the case. Previously the Crown Court was able to send cases back to the magistrates only at the end of proceedings in the Crown Court. 

Other changes are also due to come into effect from October including provisions for serious violence reduction orders and domestic abuse protection orders. 

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