30/06/2010

Wheels Of Justice 'Grind Slow'

It is taking too long to process cases through the courts in Northern Ireland and the police and prosecutors have been urged to work more closely together to reduce the amount of time it takes.

A report by the Criminal Justice Inspection NI (CJINI) has said the process takes too long and undermines public confidence and also warns that delays could make victims of crime less likely to report it to police.

However, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, (pictured) who represents the Chief Constable on the Criminal Justice Board, added: "We are committed to improving this process and substantial progress has already been made in terms of implementing the recommendations made in the last report.

"I am confident that by working in close partnership there is much more we can do.

"We already have a very good relationship with the PPS that is both mature and constructive and we recently met to agree a joint approach to address the issues contained in the report," the senior officer said.

Speaking about the publication of the Report on Avoidable Delay, the Acting Chair of the NI Policing Board, Brian Rea, said today: "The Board has been concerned for some considerable time about the interface between the PSNI and the Public Prosecution System; and the issues raised in this report now provide a basis for addressing inefficiencies across the system.

"Public confidence in the Criminal Justice System has been affected by the time it takes to progress cases.
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"There is also however a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of policing which the Policing Board are keen to address," he said, noting that the Board has been discussing with the Chief Constable measures not only to reduce bureaucracy within policing but also tackling the inefficiencies where policing interfaces with the criminal justice system.

However, the man who controls the system, Justice Minister David Ford has already reaffirmed his commitment to tackling avoidable delay and speeding up the justice system.

The Minister was responding to the publication of the Criminal Justice Inspection follow-up report on avoidable delay.

Mr Ford said: "I welcome the publication of the Chief Inspector's follow up report on avoidable delay. While it shows that some progress has been made since the last report, it is clear that we still have much to achieve.

Meanwhile, Jim Scholes, Acting Director of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said: "The PPS supports the recommendations in the Report many of which are already being taken forward in an increasingly close and effective professional relationship with police.

"The PPS welcomes the emphasis which the Report gives to improving the quality and timeliness of police investigation files. We are working collaboratively with police to secure improvements in this area and to simplify reporting arrangements," he said, but noted that "any intention to bring arrangements into line with those in England and Wales would, in the main, require legislation by the Assembly".

See full story on: Justice Wheels 'Grind Too Slowly': NI Courts Are Slammed For Delays

(BMcC/GK)

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