Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Delays are failing victims of crime

The statistics revealed in today's Belfast Telegraph about the delays in the criminal justice system are an absolute disgrace.

They show that failings by prosecutors and the PSNI have allowed dozens of suspected criminals to walk free every month partly because police evidence arrived too late, and prosecutors were not ready to proceed.

Some cases could not be brought to trial because prosecutors failed to start proceedings within six months of the alleged offence. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that cases involving 459 suspects were not brought to trial, with 340 of these due to delays in police submitting paperwork.

Serious crimes, such as rape or murder and armed robberies are not subjected to time-limits, but cases slipping through the net include alleged assaults, disorderly behaviour and road traffic offences. It cannot be argued that these lesser offences do not matter. The country's justice is based on the rule of law and it is deplorable that delays and inefficiencies are failing the victims of crime.

The PPS has said the number of cases dropped annually due to delays is less than 1% but that's 1% too many. The same applies to the PSNI, and Lord Morrow, the chair of the Stormont Justice Committee, has called on the police to explain themselves. A spokesperson has said the PSNI and PPS will cooperate to ensure those "who should face prosecution are properly brought before the court". This sounds like another public relations exercise to divert attention from embarrassing and extensive loopholes in the application of the law. The public is tired of excuses.

It is the intention of the Belfast Telegraph to continue to make a difference, and without a vigilant examination of the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, there is a danger the situation will become even worse. In the end, actions - including court actions - speak louder than words.

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