Court Service tackles appeals backlog

THE COURT Service has slashed waiting times for criminal appeals through the efforts of court staff and the use of extra judges and information technology.

The latest figures from the Criminal Appeal Office show that at the end of June 1995 the average waiting time for conviction appeals had been reduced to 10.3 months, compared with 14.7 months in June 1993.

For sentence appeals, the reduction was to 4.8 months compared with 7.8 months in June 1993. This appeal reduction came despite an increase of nearly 6 per cent in receipts of new appeals during 1994 and a further 8 per cent in 1995.

A significant reduction, by 36 per cent between June 1993 and June 1995, has been achieved by the number of cases awaiting preparation for hearing by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

Master McKenzie QC, the Registrar of Criminal Appeals and Master of the Crown Office, said: “I am very pleased with the achievements to date.

“Over the past two years I have introduced a series of initiatives, including some extremely tough targets, specifically aimed at a reduction in waiting time.”

Master McKenzie said the “committed response of staff at all levels” had a part to play in the improvements. Other contributing factors were access to additional judicial resources and growing computerisation.

Diane Burleigh, head of the Law Society's court business team, said that the reduction in waiting times “had to be good news”. “We are pleased there is an improvement.”

New conviction cases now have an eight-month average waiting time.

McKenzie said he was aiming to cut this further, to six months for conviction appeals and three months for sentence appeals.