Criminal justice system needs to join up

13 Jul 00
Criminal justice agencies are wasting up to £85m a year by failing to work together effectively, MPs have claimed.

14 July 2000

The Committee of Public Accounts said the criminal justice agencies, including the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Home Office, are years away from achieving Whitehall's vision of joined-up government. They do not even agree on a basic definition of a criminal case.

The lack of co-operation has already resulted in endemic delays in the justice system, the MPs found, with the agencies wasting around £85m in ineffective hearings and abandoned trials.

In a survey from the National Audit Office, 41% of adjournments in magistrates' courts were due to errors or omissions in documents, while 48% were caused by defence solicitors or defendants failing to attend court.

But the agencies are still 'some way' from developing the information base needed to improve standards in the justice system, MPs said.

The most recent information on 2.6m annual adjournments, costing £41m, dates from 1995. The committee warns that this lack of information will hamper the development of joint information technology systems.

The Crown Prosecution Service was also singled out for criticism after revealing that its new IT system will not be up and running until 2003, while the roll-out of its current system was halted in 1997 because the technology had become outdated, leaving some CPS offices without any access to the main IT system.

'It is hard to think of an area of policy where it is more important to adopt effective joint working,' said David Davis, chair of the PAC. 'The failure by the criminal justice agencies to work in a properly co-ordinated way causes endemic delays in the system, which increases costs.'


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