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FAR FROM "fast-track justice hitting a brick wall" (The Lawyer, 24 November 1998), pilot schemes to speed up criminal justice have so far been very encouraging.
These pilots have only been running since the beginning of October, but the reports that the steering group have been receiving bear no relation to the negative content of the article. All the pilot sites have reported considerable enthusiasm for this initiative, including the willingness of solicitors to meet the challenge of the new approach.
I do not believe that this is because no one wants to be seen as "blowing out on a national pilot", as one of your contributors suggested. It is because there is genuine support in the criminal justice system for seeing the guilty sentenced quickly and the innocent set free, and because people are fed up with the delays endemic in the the current system. I believe that this view would be echoed by the general public.
The pilots are being evaluated by independent consultants and they are being steered by a sub-group on the inter-agency Trials Issues Group, which brings together all those agencies involved in the criminal justice system - including the Law Society. The pilots are being evaluated as they progress, and the period during which they are to be evaluated ends in April next year. But there are already clear signs from around the country that non-pilot areas want to start fast-tracking arrangements and have taken steps to do so, such is the enthusiasm for the way forward shown by these schemes.