VICTIMS of crime are being betrayed by “unacceptable” delays at the region’s courts, a minister said yesterday (Tuesday, February 19).
Damian Green launched a fierce attack on the failure to start trials on the day they are listed, pledging to overhaul the system.
The minister released new figures revealing that just 44 per cent of trials start on the day planned at magistrates courts across England.
But The Northern Echo can reveal that the performance of courts in the North-East and North Yorkshire is even worse – and among the worst in the country.
Only around one third of trials are “effective” at Teesside (33 per cent), Durham (32 per cent), Newcastle (31 per cent) and, worst of all, York (30 per cent).
The figures, for the period between July and September last year, measure the proportion of trials that “begin on the scheduled date and reach a conclusion”.
Mr Green said: “It is unacceptable that only 44 per cent of trials go ahead on the day they have been listed.
“If, every day, only 44 per cent of trains left the stations, or 44 per cent of planned hospital operations took place, there would be a national uproar. Yet every day this happens in the magistrates courts.
“I want to see a far higher proportion of effective trials that go ahead the first time that they are listed. Ineffective trials should be the exception, not the rule.”
Mr Green promised improvements, by:
- Tackling mistakes in file preparation and poor communication between the police, judiciary, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and court service.
- Increased use of new technology to “join up” the criminal justice process and allow the agencies to share information digitally.
- Creating “speeding offences” days, when such cases are dealt with en masse. At present, they can take six months, despite being straightforward.
- An end to “overlisting”, when courts list more than one trial to start at the same time – resulting in victims and witnesses being turned away several times.
- Banning lawyers from legal aid cases unless they can send and receive files digitally.
But the Magistrates' Association immediately warned that steep funding cuts meant Britain could no longer afford a “Rolls-Royce” justice system.
Responding to the speech, in London, John Fassenfelt, its chairman, said: “I accept our country is in a dire financial situation - perhaps we can only afford a Ford Escort system.
“However, a Ford Escort runs on petrol. How can you reassure me that your reforms will get in place quickly enough before the petrol runs out?”
Mr Green announced a new criminal justice board, featuring a senior judge, to draw up a package of reforms – insisting it would not be “another talking shop”.
More Crime News
- Why borstal is the way forward
- Watch as thieves smash window and steal three specialist racing bikes in 38 seconds
- Ten charged over drugs and money laundering
- VIDEO: 'Stupid' man clings to car bonnet in his pants at 52mph for a dare
- Motorists who cause deaths by using mobile phones targeted by police in Durham and Cleveland
- Reward for information after masked men tie up elderly couple before robbing them
- Stockton man admits stalking a musician he met on dating website
- Burglar accused of setting fire to disabled woman's home to cover up crime is cleared of causing her death
- Violent and sexual crime rises down to "growing confidence in police", bosses say
- Police appeal for information to trace car used in Middlesbrough jewellers raid