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Northern Ireland court system judged expensive, slow and poor value

By Dr David Cowan

28 March 2018 at 12:32 BST

The criminal justice system in Northern Ireland is significantly more expensive and slower than in England and Wales, according to a new report from The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO).


According to the report, Crown Court cases in Northern Ireland typically take more than 500 days from the date an offence is reported until a verdict is delivered in court, twice as long as in England and Wales. The report, Speeding up justice: avoidable delay in the criminal justice system, states the system 'does not deliver value for money'. 

Ineffective and adjourned hearings

Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General, examined the delivery of the four main justice organisations: The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), the Northern Ireland Court and Tribunals Service (NICTS), and the Department of Justice. Over the course of the year 2016-17, the four spent a combined total of £819m, while 12 per cent of Crown Court cases in Northern Ireland take in excess of 1000 days to complete. Once a case reaches court, it is 'frequently punctuated' by ineffective and adjourned court hearings, with cases being adjourned almost seven times on average before reaching a conclusion.

Step change needed

Mr Donnelly highlighted this has negative impacts on victims, defendants and witnesses, and said: 'We need a step change in improvement, not just some little baby steps.' He added: 'The only way to address these issues effectively is through developing true partnership working between the police, prosecution, courts and the judiciary within which specific reform projects can be pursued.' The report can be read here


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