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Courts 'expensive and inefficient'

The criminal justice system is inefficient, time-consuming and too expensive, a new report claims, as a series of recommendations are set out to make it more streamlined.

Ensuring prisoners turn up to court on time, introducing more flexible opening hours in magistrates' courts and making more use of video both in court for conferencing, and for police to gather evidence with body or helmet cameras are among the suggestions made by Sir Brian Leveson.

He also calls for funding to be made available to accommodate the changes to the justice system in England and Wales, detailed in the Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings.

He urges better case management with a recommendation that timetables should be made available in relevant cases, to indicate the timing of evidence and speeches.

The system must be streamlined in order to cope with "diminished resources", Sir Brian, who chaired the inquiry into phone-hacking and press ethics, said.

In a further suggestion that would require a change in the law, he said the issue of an accused's current right to elect for a jury trial even in what are "perceived to be trivial cases" should be considered.

Sir Brian said: "The changes I have recommended are all designed to streamline the way the investigation and prosecution of crime is approached without ever losing sight of the interests of justice.

"Our conduct of criminal trials was designed in the 19th century with many changes and reforms bolted on, especially over the last 30 years. The result is that it has become inefficient, time-consuming and, as a result, very expensive.

"It is clear that all aspects of the system are going to have to live with diminished resources for years to come. Quite apart from questions of necessary reform, therefore, it is vital that we find ways to make best use of those resources by greater efficiency.

"As a society, it remains essential that we retain high quality lawyers to carry out publicly funded work.

"A more efficient system overall will allow all those involved in criminal justice to use their time productively with fewer hours wasted dealing with bureaucracy and less time lost through unnecessary delay."

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