'Bureaucratic' committal plans come under fire

THE CAMPAIGN to force the revision of “complex, bureaucratic and inflexible” government proposals to abolish committal proceedings has intensified.

The Law Society's criminal law specialist Roger Ede and London Criminal Court Solicitors' Association president Tony Edwards are due to meet senior Home Office officials this week to press the case for major changes to the Government's transfer for trial scheme.

The scheme formed part of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act and it has faced stiff opposition from the Law Society as well as magistrates and their clerks.

Now the Government is using the current Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill to modify the scheme, whose implementation has been postponed on several occasions.

But the society is still dissatisfied with the plan to automatically siphon off uncontested serious cases to the Crown Court and to introduce strict time limits for pre-trial procedures.

Earlier this month, the Government promised further amendments, after Lord McIntosh of Haringey said the plan to introduce the scheme would deprive the courts of the power to push cases along.

Ede, secretary of the society's criminal law committee, described the Government's plans as “ludicrous”.

Its aim of speeding up cases and ending the requirement for witnesses to appear at committal hearings could be achieved through improvements to the existing system, he said.