Criminal Failure as Court Errors Persist; Reports Says Mistakes Are Continuing

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Doyle

CRIMINALS including paedophiles, drug dealers and violent thugs could be escaping justice because of basic errors in magistrates' court records, a damning report has revealed.

Mistakes on court files could also mean innocent suspects being wrongly given criminal records, the courts inspectorate said yesterday.

Error rates at some magistrates courts in England and Wales are still at "worrying" levels despite the issue first being identified as a problem more than two years ago, the report found.

At one court half the records from three years ago were found to contain errors, and one in four from last year.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, Eddie Bloomfield, called for "urgent" steps to make sure records are accurate.

Mr Bloomfield said: "Although we only sampled a small number of case files in the magistrates' courts, the percentage of errors was worrying. Relatively minor errors in recording the outcomes of hearings can lead to ... individuals having false criminal records or even more serious outcomes such as a person being free to commit further offences when they should have been in custody."

The report into case administration and results stated baldly: "Inspectors were concerned that HMCS had no way of knowing how accurate its records of judicial decisions are.

"Inaccurate completion of the court register could lead to incorrect information being entered on the Police National Computer, which would hamper the police and other criminal justice agencies in carrying out their roles, and could also lead to members of the public having false criminal records."

The inspectors said that even minor mistakes could have "potentially tragic consequences". …


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