Practice and Procedure

Speeding up cases ?risks miscarriages of justice?

PUBLISHED November 28, 2012

Thursday 29 November 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Government plans to speed up criminal cases risk 'significantly' increasing the number of miscarriages of justice, the Law Society warned this week.

Responding to a white paper setting out planned reforms of the criminal justice system, the Society stressed that dealing with cases swiftly must be consistent with achieving a just result.

While welcoming some of the reforms, such as increased use of IT in courts, the Society voiced concern at the focus on speed. 'We are very concerned that simply concentrating on processing cases speedily is likely to reduce the safeguards that exist to protect the innocent, and the risk of miscarriages of justice will be increased significantly.'

Chancery Lane said a 'major flaw' in the paper was its failure to recognise that delays can be caused by parties other than the defendant and defence solicitors. It suggested that focus should be put on removing delays caused by the Crown Prosecution Service, the police and others.

The major cause of delay between an offence being alleged and the completion of court proceedings is the amount of time that suspects are subject to police bail while the police investigate, it said. It suggested there should be a limit on the time people can be subject to police bail.

The Society also opposed the idea of magistrates convening in police stations, but had no objection to police prosecuting low-level traffic offences.