Criminals will face justice far more quickly as court committal hearings are abolished in dozens of areas of England and Wales from today.
Scrapping the hearings will help the courts run more efficiently and ensure they provide a better service for users.
They were abolished in 12 areas in June 2012 and will be phased out across the rest of England and Wales over the next year. Nationally the changes will mean that around 60,000 fewer hearings will be needed each year.
Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said:
"Abolishing committal hearings is another one of the steps we are taking to make justice swift and sure, and to ensure our courts run efficiently and effectively for victims, witnesses and the taxpayers whose money funds them. The justice system needs continued improvement, and this announcement is an important step forward."
The changes are the latest in a series of moves saving time and money for the whole justice system. Other measures included introducing flexible court hours in evening and weekends in 48 areas and increasing the use of video links between courts, prisons and police stations.
Committal hearings are a procedural part of the court process, used to officially transfer a case from the Magistrates Courts, where lower level crimes are dealt with, to the Crown Court, which handles most serious offences. Where they have been abolished, cases will now be sent to the Crown Court as soon as it is clear the matter is serious enough, without the need for a separate hearing.
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