Audit office criticises court failure to stamp out delays

THE FAILURE of most crown courts to eradicate delay and meet statutory waiting time limits indicates “grounds for concern”, says a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

And the behaviour of defence lawyers and a shortage of judges on Circuit may be contributory factors to the problem, it says.

The NAO's recommendations, which have been largely accepted by the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD), include further measures for checking performance, researching reasons for delays and monitoring compliance with case listing guidelines.

It also recommends new targets for committals for sentence and appeals, training for listing officers and improved use of court space according to availability.

But a proposal to review the arrangements for use of recorders and assistant recor-ders, which could lead to solving judge power problems, is not seen as “productive” by the LCD, says the NAO.

The LCD set an eight-week target for average waiting times between committal and trial for custody cases and 12 weeks for bail cases (with 14 weeks in London and 12 weeks in the South East because of “special difficulties”).

Only two circuits met custody targets in 1992. For bail cases, the target was met by only Wales and Chester.