The Lord Chancellor today praised a pilot scheme at a London magistrates court aimed at speeding up the process of justice.
Camberwell Green magistrate's court in south London ? one of four in England taking part in the project ? reported that the number of defendants pleading guilty at their first hearing has jumped from 36 per cent to 59 per cent.
The number of pleas being entered at first hearings has also risen from 67 per cent to 80 per cent, while the number of defendants failing to attend their first hearing fell from 9 per cent to 6 per cent.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, visited the court today to hear feedback from magistrates and staff.
"I am delighted to see the progress the court has made in delivering a simple, speedier, summary justice system to deliver a better service in your area," he said.
"It means getting the right information to the right people at the right time, and making sure that trials go ahead at the earliest possible date. Speedier justice builds up public confidence in the criminal justice system and fits in with the Government?s commitment to protect the public and reduce crime."
The pilot involves moves to identify guilty pleas earlier and recognise how cases can be better dealt with through warnings, cautions or other processes outside the courts. They also seek improvements in lawyers? preparation for first hearings.
In addition to Camberwell Green, the pilots are under way at Thames, Coventry, and Workington in West Cumbria.
The pilot stage is due to end in December when the scheme is due to be rolled out nationally.