PUBLIC confidence in the criminal justice system on Teesside is rising as more offenders are brought before the courts, a police chief claims.

Cleveland Chief Constable Sean Price said the latest figures showed that progress was being made in the number of offences being brought to justice, and said the number of ineffective trials was down.

He said the statistics from the British Crime Survey were very encouraging and a demonstration that the united efforts of all those involved in the local criminal justice system were making a real difference.

Last year 38.9 per cent of people questioned in the Cleveland area said they had confidence in the criminal justice system, a rise of six per cent on the 12 months to the end of March 2003. The number of offences brought to justice last year totalled 14,787 - a rise of 2.2 per cent.

Trials that could not go ahead on the original scheduled date went down from 34.8 per cent between July to September 2002 to 20 per cent between October and December last year.

There was also a similar reduction in the number of ineffective crown court trials.

Throughout last year, the number of days between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders was well below the national maximum target of 71 days - and in the final quarter was down to 56 days in Cleveland.

In the last three months of 2004, 91 per cent of fines were collected in Cleveland, as opposed to a national minimum target of 78 per cent.

"What these figures demonstrate is that right across the criminal justice system in Cleveland we are working together through the Criminal Justice Board to deliver improved performance - and that is being increasingly recognised by the public," said Mr Price, who is also chairman of the board.

"What law-abiding citizens want to see is that criminals are caught and brought to justice, that the court system works quickly and effectively, and that victims and witnesses are given proper support and information on how a case is progressing.

"Taken with the very real progress made in reducing crime - down by eight per cent over the past year - and increasing detection rates, we are making significant prog-ress. The challenge now is for us to maintain momentum."