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Magistrates' Courts

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many times magistrates courts hearings in each district have had to be postponed because the prosecution case paperwork was incomplete or misdirected in the last 12 months. (258012)

The Ministry of Justice does not hold information centrally concerning how many times hearings in each district have been postponed due to prosecution casework being incomplete or misdirected and this could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

However, figures for the prosecution's administrative lack of readiness in relation to vacated and ineffective trials are shown in the following table by Local Criminal Justice Board area. The data are gathered as part of the joint ineffective and vacated trial monitoring exercise and rely on the accurate recording of reasons that may, over time, be subject to amendment.

Nationally, the data for January to December 2008 show that 4.3 per cent. of all vacated trials were vacated because of reasons associated to the prosecution's administrative lack of readiness. In relation to ineffective trials, the reasons associated to the prosecution's lack of readiness led to 1.7 per cent. of all trials being ineffective.

Despite these relatively low figures, the Crown Prosecution Service has introduced a number of significant changes to its working practices to improve the effectiveness of its work in the magistrates' courts. These are under an initiative known as the ‘Optimum Business Model’ (OBM). The OBM comprises nine recommendations, the key element being the introduction of proactive case progression teams that ensure cases are ready in advance of the court hearing. OBM has focused on eliminating waste and duplication, streamlining processes and improving timeliness. It has been implemented across 40 of the 42 Crown Prosecution Service areas to date and considerable benefits have been gained not least in the improved timeliness of the prosecution review of cases, in better rates of readiness for trial and responses to correspondence. A system has been introduced to record numbers of adjournments and the reasons why they occurred which is currently under review. Early indications show a reduction of adjournments overall in line with the introduction of criminal justice simple speedy summary (CJSSS) processes and the contribution of OBM.

Details of Prosecution-related administrative lack of readiness by area January-December 2008—covering vacated and ineffective trials in magistrates courts

Vacated trials

Ineffective trials

Local criminal justice board area

Prosecution not ready: prosecution not ready for trial, further preparation needed

Total vacated trials

Percentage of total vacated trials vacated because prosecution not ready for trial, further preparation needed

Prosecution not ready: served late notice of additional evidence on defence

Prosecution not ready: Other

Total prosecution-related reasons relating to administrative readiness

Total trials (including ineffective trials)

Percentage of total trials ineffective because of prosecution reasons related to administrative readiness

Avon and Somerset

32

737

4.3

11

20

31

2,751

1.1

Bedfordshire

32

851

3.8

7

17

24

2,224

1.1

Cambridgeshire

4

250

1.6

1

5

6

1,597

0.4

Cheshire

21

735

2.9

7

20

27

3,136

0.9

Cleveland

27

873

3.1

11

25

36

2,668

1.3

Cumbria

26

894

2.9

4

35

39

1,742

2.2

Derbyshire

41

1,073

3.8

22

51

73

4,261

1.7

Devon and Cornwall

31

826

3.8

14

23

37

2,615

1.4

Dorset

50

719

7.0

3

30

33

2,277

1.4

Durham

50

951

5.3

13

28

41

1,516

2.7

Dyfed Powys

8

468

1.7

1

11

12

992

1.2

Essex

85

1,187

7.2

26

104

130

4,540

2.9

Gloucestershire

4

429

0.9

3

21

24

1,594

1.5

Greater London

412

6,151

6.7

126

546

672

32,273

2.1

Greater Manchester

96

2,066

4.6

66

144

210

10,658

2.0

Gwent

11

674

1.6

8

18

26

1,847

1.4

Hampshire and IoW

69

2,204

3.1

15

50

65

5,462

1.2

Hertfordshire

15

1,560

1.0

11

51

62

4,217

1.5

Humberside

27

631

4.3

5

27

32

2,365

1.4

Kent

83

1,313

6.3

14

56

70

5,123

1.4

Lancashire

59

1,951

3.0

25

60

85

6,466

1.3

Leicestershire

13

392

3.3

14

30

44

3,386

1.3

Lincolnshire

18

783

2.3

6

22

28

1,673

1.7

Merseyside

59

1,385

4.3

25

57

82

5,800

1.4

Norfolk

38

714

5.3

9

15

24

1,785

1.3

North Wales

25

900

2.8

13

25

38

2,194

1.7

North Yorkshire

35

798

4.4

8

17

25

1,632

1.5

Northamptonshire

15

192

7.8

4

8

12

1,843

0.7

Northumbria

149

2,123

7.0

27

98

125

7,299

1.7

Nottinghamshire

94

1,482

6.3

20

80

100

4,356

2.3

South Wales

96

1,674

5.7

27

76

103

4,486

2.3

South Yorkshire

46

1,622

2.8

21

46

67

4,461

1.5

Staffordshire

31

812

3.8

15

44

59

3,588

1.6

Suffolk

32

603

5.3

5

8

13

915

1.4

Surrey

18

559

3.2

2

28

30

2,661

1.1

Sussex

70

1,521

4.6

5

30

35

4,282

0.8

Thames Valley

26

1,357

1.9

20

70

90

6,264

1.4

Warwickshire

5

133

3.8

1

2

3

493

0.6

West Mercia

32

996

3.2

13

42

55

4,093

1.3

West Midlands

66

3,030

2.2

62

173

235

13,225

1.8

West Yorkshire

62

1,370

4.5

23

87

110

7,105

1.5

Wiltshire

27

296

9.1

3

24

27

1,637

1.6

England and Wales

2,140

49,285

4.3

716

2,324

3,040

183,502

1.7