The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke QC) has issued the following statement:
"It is in the interests of victims and witnesses, and of the criminal justice system generally, that court procedures should be made as efficient as possible, for example by cutting out unnecessary court hearings. More than ten years ago, committal proceedings were abolished in indictable-only offences, and replaced by a new ?sending? procedure.
The Government has decided that the time has come to complete that reform by extending it to offences triable either way. This will enable the Crown Court to manage such cases from an earlier stage, and facilitate efforts to encourage defendants who intend to plead guilty to do so sooner.
The change will be effected by bringing into force Schedule 3 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 on a phased basis from April 2012. Following the practice adopted when the existing sending procedure in Section 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 was first introduced, commencement will initially be limited to certain geographical areas, which will be announced later. Subject to a satisfactory assessment of the first phase, the intention is to complete implementation over the next year.
The Government believes that this reform has the potential to contribute to its aim of reforming and improving the criminal justice system."