Criminal justice system not achieving value for money despite MoJ’s “ambitious reform programme” - National Audit Office

Written by Emilio Casalicchio on 1 March 2016 in News

Public pending watchdog finds delays in the justice system because of “basic avoidable mistakes” and says reform alone will not tackle all “causes of inefficiency"

The criminal justice system is failing to deliver value for money, with two thirds of cases not progressing as planned, an independent report has found.

A number of delays and aborted hearings are the result of “basic avoidable mistakes” and planned reform alone will not address all “causes of inefficiency,” the National Audit Office said.

In its report on efficiency in the criminal justice system, the official auditor did find that the management of cases has improved since 2010.

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The proportion of trials that go ahead as planned has increased from 34% in the year ending September 2011 to 39% in the year ending September 2015.

But two thirds still remain ineffective, with the system only compounded by a massive geographical variation in the chance of a trial going ahead as planned.

In north Wales a case had a 7 in 10 chance of effectiveness, while in Greater Manchester the rate was a dismal 2 in 10, the NAO found.

The report added that in 2014-15 the Crown Prosecution Service spent £21.5m on preparing cases that were not heard in court, including £5.5m on cases that collapsed due to “prosecution reasons” such as incomplete case files.

Between March 2013 and September 2015, backlogs in the Crown Court increased by 34%, while waiting times for hearings increased from 99 days to 134.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “Delays and aborted hearings create extra work, waste scarce resources, and undermine confidence in the system.

“Some of the challenges are longstanding and complex – others are the results of basic avoidable mistakes.

“The ambitious reform programme led by the Ministry, HMCTS, CPS and Judiciary has the potential to improve value for money by providing tools to help get things right first time, but will not in itself address all of the causes of inefficiency.” 

Mr Morse added: “It is essential that the criminal justice system pulls together and takes collective responsibility for sorting out the longstanding issues.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the department welcomed the report and would reflect on its findings.

“The MoJ is embarking on a radical reform of the criminal justice system,” the spokesperson said.

“As the justice secretary has said, our criminal justice system is in need of urgent reform.

“Our courts are archaic and slow, and their out of date processes do not meet the needs of the public. 

“That is why we are investing a record £700m to build a justice system that is swifter and more certain.”

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Emilio Casalicchio
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Emilio Casalicchio reports for CSW's sister title,

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