Hold-ups at West Yorkshire courts ‘betray victims of crime’

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Victims of crime are being betrayed by unacceptable delays at West Yorkshire courts, a minister said Victims of crime are being betrayed by unacceptable delays at West Yorkshire courts, a minister said

Victims of crime are being betrayed by unacceptable delays at West Yorkshire courts, a minister said yesterday.

Damian Green, minister for policing and criminal justice, made a fierce attack on the failure to start trials on the day they are listed, pledging to overhaul the system.

He released figures revealing only 44 per cent of trials start on the day planned at magistrates’ courts across England.

But the Telegraph & Argus can reveal the performance of Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court (33%) and Leeds Magistrates’ Court (37%) is even worse – and among the worst in the country.

The figures, for July to September last year, measure the proportion of “effective” trials that “begin on the scheduled date and reach a conclusion”.

Mr Green said: “It is unacceptable that only 44 per cent of trials go ahead on the day they have been listed.

“If, every day, only 44 per cent of trains left stations, or 44 per cent of hospital operations took place, there would be a national uproar. Yet every day this happens in the magistrates’ courts.

“I want to see a far higher proportion of effective trials that go ahead the first time that they are listed.” Mr Green promised improvements by: l Tackling mistakes in file preparation and poor communication between the police, judiciary, Crown Prosecution Service and court service.

* Increased use of new technology to “join up” the criminal justice process and allow the agencies to share information digitally.

* Creating “speeding offences” days, when such cases are dealt with en masse.

* An end to “overlisting”, when courts list more than one trial to start at the same time – resulting in victims and witnesses being turned away.

* Banning lawyers from legal aid cases unless they can send and receive files digitally.

But the Magistrates’ Association immediately warned that steep funding cuts meant Britain could no longer afford a “Rolls-Royce” justice system.

Chairman John Fassenfelt said: “Perhaps we can only afford a Ford Escort system.”

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