Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Justice delayed is justice denied

Editor's Viewpoint

The public will be concerned by today's revelations about the long delays in our courts at different levels. Though the courts have processed criminal cases somewhat faster in the last year, the long delays unfortunately remain.

The statistics reveal that summons cases took an average of 802 days to be dealt with in the Crown Court. That means it has taken over two years for cases to be handled.

The delay in the adult Magistrates Court is 198 days, and 248 days in the youth Magistrates Court. This marks increases in all three courts, and such long delays beggar belief.

For the victims of crime, these delays are far too long. It is no surprise that for many of these people there is a sense of their lives being held in suspense, and waiting in the hope of justice being done. Quite reasonably, they are not able to feel any sense of closure until the court case is finished and the verdict is known.

In examples of particularly traumatic cases the delay adds to the worry and tension. This can only make matters worse, while prolonging the unsettling experiences involved, and almost inevitably putting off the necessary healing period.

There are also repercussions for the accused. If someone is found guilty and dealt with, there is a sense of the law having taken its course.

However, for those found not guilty and set free, the repercussions which hang over such individuals are considerable. They impact upon the person directly involved, but also on his or her family and friends, and perhaps even their work colleagues as well as their job. Such long delays, which usually involve several adjournments, are bound to be costly for all concerned. As well, there may be other costs, including the summoning of witnesses, who may well be turned away and told to come back another day.

Such a state of affairs cannot be ignored indefinitely, much less tolerated. It is incumbent, therefore, on all the main players ­­- including the Department of Justice, the police, the PPS and the Courts Service - to ensure that significant steps are taken to deal with these unfortunate backlogs.

Belfast Telegraph

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