Police boss backs trial time limits
Published 01/01/2012 | 12:22
Introducing statutory time limits for bringing suspected criminals to trial would help speed up Northern Ireland's often slow-moving wheels of justice, the region's latest senior commander has said.
Newly appointed Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said his experience policing in Scotland had convinced him that agreed timeframes ahead of court cases helped deliver faster resolutions for victims.
The Bangor father of four has returned to the PSNI to take up the post vacated by retired ACC Duncan McCausland after a two and a half year stint in the same rank with Strathclyde Police.
In Northern Ireland it can often be years after a defendant has been charged in a complex criminal case before their trial begins.
In Scotland such trials have to be started within 12 months of a charge. There are other time constraints imposed through the case, such as a 90 day limit on when police have to pass a file to prosecutors.
"Should we have statutory time limits for responsibility for the police getting a case to the PPS and then a statutory time expectation or limit for the PPS to get it prosecuted and for the court disposal?" Mr Hamilton posed.
"There's nothing like that on statute. Whether or not you do it by way of a pledge - now with devolved justice it's possible to get everything all joined up so that all the agencies are agreed on it - or whether it needs to sit in legislation.
"For me as a police officer it's of secondary importance what the modalities are, the important thing is we speed this up and we set more stringent targets and we meet them.
"That's something that I've seen operate in Scotland, some of the time limits there are quite tight
"It depends on the complexity of the case but I think it's 12 months for the most serious cases, the trial has to be sitting within 12 months."