Criminal hustice system shambolic says Heath, blaming narrow aims of police

The criminal justice system is in danger of becoming a laughing stock according to the president of the Justices' Clerks Society.

Speaking at the Justices' Clerks Society Annual Conference on 8 May, Tony Heath described the justice system as shambolic and lacking an overall aim.

Heath singled out the police for attack when he accused them of “retreating into the narrow culture of concentration on core business” at the expense of the smooth working of the summary justice system.

Central to his criticism were the issues of fine enforcement and the time taken for cases to progress through the justice system.

He called for the introduction of common performance indicators for the CPS, police and magistrates courts, which would monitor criminal cases from the moment of detection through to the enforcement of sentence. He also wants to see more co-ordination between courts and other organisations in tracing fine defaulters.

Heath criticised some police forces for being unco-operative in the transfer of responsibility for fine enforcement to magistrates courts committees, an opinion seconded by general secretary of the central council of magistrates courts committee, Duncan Webster.

Tony Coe, the Chief Constable of Suffolk police and chair of the Association of Chief

Police Officers' general purposes committee, said he was “shattered” by the accusations.

“Not only are we willing to co-operate but we have been urging a transfer for some time,” he said.

But he acknowledged that the execution of warrants for fine defaulters was a “relatively low priority” task and that some warrants were not executed because of pressure on time and finances.