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Access to Justice: Criminal Case Delays

Volume 658: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2019

11. What assessment he has made of the effect of delays in progressing criminal cases in the courts on access to justice. (910428)

Unnecessary delays can always cause distress for all parties. Some cases are moving more quickly through the criminal courts, but due to the complexity of cases, impacts on the time that they take to reach courts are being realised. The Crown Prosecution Service and the police are driving change across the system through the national disclosure improvement plan, and we are working to reduce delays and improve the way cases are progressed through the system through better case management and transforming summary justice.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and I am aware of the work that is being done to improve disclosure processes, which both the Law Society and my local police tell me are still contributing to delayed and, in some cases, collapsed trials. What is her view of the Law Society’s suggestion that different disclosure rules should apply in the magistrates courts and Crown courts, where the nature of the cases and the amount of disclosed but unused material differ greatly?

Of course, the Attorney General has done a review in relation to disclosure more broadly. I am very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss any ideas that she would like to put forward on those matters.

Since 2016, payments to consultancies by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service have shot up from £3 million to £20 million. The Government appear to think that expensive private consultants are the solution to all their problems, even in the face of spiralling costs. Does the Minister really believe that the way to increase access to justice is to hand over yet more public money to private consultants at a time when our courts are facing unprecedented cuts?

We are in the process of a £1 billion court programme—one of the most ambitious across the world in relation to how we transform our justice system—and it is appropriate that we get the best and right advice to manage that process. Sometimes we find that it is cheaper to instruct experts than it is to develop that expertise internally, so we use consultants where appropriate.