In recent months there has been a significant number of cases where a legal practitioner has filed a notice of ceasing to act after a criminal prosecution has been listed for trial in the District Court. In most cases, the accused person has successfully applied for an adjournment of the trial on the basis that the accused had insufficient time to instruct alternative counsel. Given the lateness of the adjournment, the Court was not able to use the trial dates set aside for the particular trial.
In response to this issue, the Court has today issued Circular to Practitioners CRIM 2012/1, Ceasing to Act before a Criminal Trial. The Circular sets out the Court’s practices where a practitioner lodges a notice of ceasing to act pursuant to Criminal Procedure Rules 2005 (WA) (CPR) r 11 after a criminal matter has been listed for trial. In summary terms, in this situation the Court will ordinarily:
- summons or bring up the accused to attend a mention before the Duty Judge; and
- write to the practitioner concerned requiring him or her to attend the mention in order to satisfy the Court that they have complied with their obligations under Legal Profession Conduct Rules 2010 (LPCR) rule 27.
Where the practitioner makes an application for leave to cease to act pursuant to CPR r 11(2), one of the factors that the Court will take into account is whether the practitioner has complied with LPCR rule 27.
The practices set out in the Circular to Practitioners will have immediate effect.
A copy of the new Circular is attached for ease of reference.
The new Circular is also available on the Court’s website: www.districtcourt.wa.gov.au.
17 August 2012