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The Justice Systems is Close to Breaking Point

A Public Accounts Committee report released recently claims that the criminal justice system is close to breaking point, with too many delays and to much inefficiency in... 

“The criminal justice system is close to breaking point.” That is the verdict of the House of Common’s Public Accounts Committee in their most recent report. Efficiency in the criminal justice system, released recently, states that lack of shared accountability and pressures from diminishing resources are causing both inefficiencies and delays in the system. The Committee also found that victims and witnesses are not given enough support, and that where someone lives is a major determinant of one’s ability to access justice in a timely manner.

The criminal justice system is a fragmented landscape, with several agencies and departments holding stakes in it. Poor co-ordination between the different stakeholders in the system are causing severe delays and harming efficiency. In September last year the backlog of cases waiting to be heard in the Crown Court was 51,830, and the average number of days between a case leaving Magistrates court and being heard in the Crown Court has risen from 99 two years ago to 134 today. The Committee points out that “too much costly court time is wasted dealing with the consequences of parties simply not having done what they should have done.”

Another remarkable statistic in the report is that only 55% of people who have been a witness in the criminal justice system would be prepared to be one again. 25% of witnesses have to wait 4 hours or more to give evidence, and the report also highlights instances of when victims have been sent conflicting information by different stakeholders in the system. The Committee concludes that “the service victims and witnesses receive is not good enough.”

The report welcomes the Ministry of Justice’s reform plan to use technology to address these issues. But the Committee expresses some reservations, pointing out that the Government “does not have a good track record of delivering projects that involve significant changes to IT.”

In response to the report, Henry Rex, Programme Manager for Justice & Emergency Services at techUK, said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. The potential for digital technology to address the problems highlighted by the Committee is enormous. Whether it’s common standards to improve information sharing and reduce duplication, remote testifying for certain victims, online dispute resolution, or online reporting of crime, adoption of digital technology can speed up processes and generate significant savings.

With meaningful engagement with industry at the earliest stages in the process, the reform programme can deliver the change so sorely needed.

techUK welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that the MoJ and CPS should work with others on the Criminal Justice Board to agree and publish by the end of the year a timetable that sets out what specific measurable improvements will be achieved by the reform programme, and by when. We look forward to continuing our work with the MoJ, HMCTS and other stakeholders in driving through the swift adoption of digital technology to deliver a better, more efficient justice system.

 

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