Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[Pounds Sterling]80m a Year Wasted as Court Chaos Scuppers 60,000 Trials

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[Pounds Sterling]80m a Year Wasted as Court Chaos Scuppers 60,000 Trials

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID TAYLOR

MORE than [pound]80 million a year is wasted by unnecessary delays and adjournments in the courts, a withering assessment of the criminal justice system concludes today.

A powerful spending watchdog blames police, courts, prosecutors, the probation service, prisons and private security escort firms for contributing to a culture of blame and inefficiency that means one in three crown court trials does not start on its scheduled day.

The Audit Commission warns today that despite positive steps by the Government, "cases are dropping out of the system unnecessarily, allowing offenders to evade justice".

The report says the Crown Prosecution Service, police and other agencies "too often blame each other for the fact that they do not achieve their own targets, and work around problems rather than co-operating to overcome them".

Entitled The Route to Injustice, the report adds that more than 60,000 cases a year - 13 per cent of the total - are discontinued when they get to court.

Typical problems include a victim or witness refusing to testify, prosecutors failing to get their case ready in time, or witnesses failing to turn up.

The study comes after the Damilola Taylor case ended in some defendants being freed on judge's orders and the remaining defendants being found not guilty. The case has raised serious questions about how police and the prosecution work together in the handling of witnesses.

The Government is poised to unveil major reforms of the criminal justice system in a White Paper next month. But today the Audit Commission warns: "Radical change to the CJS [criminal justice system] is necessary if real improvements are to be made."

It is critical of weak management and warns problems with delays can begin when police make inappropriate charges and the CPS wastes time correcting the decision. …

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