Minister launches White Paper aimed at getting faster justice

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The criminal justice system can be opaque, impenetrable, too concerned with defendants and too little concerned about victims, said Nick Herbert.

Justice “must be swift, sure and seen to be done, or it’s not done at all”, the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister said yesterday.

Backing the use of technology and calling for more efficiency, he said that the state too often acted “like a bad parent, neglectful in repeatedly tolerating bad behaviour and then inevitably harsh”.

“As well as dealing with defendants swiftly, we need to get a proper grip on them, taking the right action to prevent them sliding into ever more serious crimes,” Mr Herbert said.

Launching the Government’s “swift and sure justice” White Paper, he said there has been a culture within the criminal justice system which has tolerated delay and which must change.

There were 53 separate processes for one common assault case, he said, leading to it taking 15 weeks despite the fact the case only needed six hours of work.

“Justice must be swift, sure and seen to be done, or it’s not done at all,” he said.

The system “can be opaque and impenetrable” and “we must open the system up”, he added.

“It can be too concerned with defendants and too little concerned about victims.”

Last year’s riots showed how quickly the system could work in some cases and that should be the norm, Mr Herbert said.

But he insisted he was not calling for “rushed justice”.

Mr Herbert highlighted the case of a Lithuanian lorry driver who was caught drink-driving in Kent last month. He was taken to the police station, was charged at 9.21am, appeared before magistrates via a virtual court, pleaded guilty and, by 11.35, was disqualified from driving for 36 months, fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs. “That’s what I mean by swift justice,” Mr Herbert said.

Court hours will be more flexible, technology will enable police officers to give evidence remotely and video links for defendants and witnesses will become routine, he added.

Police will also be given simpler guidance on how to deal with offenders, while magistrates will have the power to check officers’ use of cautions and penalty notices following concerns that serious and persistent offenders were escaping justice.

Neighbourhood justice panels will also be brought in to deal with anti-social behaviour.