Lawyers Who Delay Cases May Be Fined

Article excerpt

Byline: David Barrett

LAWYERS who drag out criminal cases to increase their fees could be fined under plans being considered by the Government.

In a scathing report on the running of the criminal justice system, the Audit Commission found court delays were wasting pounds 80m a year while other errors are allowing offenders to ``evade justice''.

It suggested turning around the way lawyers are paid so they earn more for resolving cases promptly, rather than earning more by ``unnecessarily prolonging'' hearings.

The pounds 80m wastage - enough to pay for an extra 3,800 police officers - is squandered by ``delays and inefficiencies throughout the system''.

``Radical change is vital if real improvements are to be made,'' the report concluded.

Current arrangements for criminal lawyers meant it may be in their interests to cause delays, it said.

``The current fee structure for lawyers may be seen to offer an incentive for legal representatives to prolong cases in the judicial process unnecessarily.

``The Government is considering the use of fines to deter lawyers from stalling criminal cases to boost their fees.''

The criminal justice system was ``struggling to bring more offenders to justice'', said the report, pointing out the large gap between the 5. …