Law Society blasts Tory fast track to justice

THE Law Society has attacked a controversial home office report that was commissioned by the Tory Government to devise ways of accelerating the justice system.

The Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System claimed a series of controversial proposals, which included ending the right of defendants charged with “either-way” offences to a jury trial, would save £55m a year.

But the society's response to consultation on the proposals, which was drawn up by its criminal law committee, says the estimates were “extremely speculative”.

The committee claimed the report failed to identify many of the problems causing delays. It said the need to obtain proof of the accused's benefit status before legal aid was granted could delay a case by up to two weeks, while committal papers were often given to defence lawyers on the day of the hearing.

It also warned against eroding the independence of the CPS and insisted that only lawyers, not other members of its staff, should be responsible for reviewing files.

However, the committee did welcome the proposal that indictable-only cases should be initiated in the Crown Court rather than magistrates courts.