Topical Questions

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 2:30 pm, 15th February 2011

May I begin by making a topical statement, Mr Speaker?

Hon. Members will know that I am determined to deliver much overdue reform to the way in which the criminal justice system operates. Every year, 1.8 million criminal hearings and trials take place. The police, judiciary and others far too often find that the bureaucratic, inefficient system works against their best efforts, rather than for them. It is immensely frustrating that, for example, the key people in the system-the police, prosecutors and probation staff-are often unable to e-mail each other the crucial information they need to bring a prosecution; it all has to be done in hard copy. The average straightforward case heard in the magistrates courts takes 19 weeks from the offence being committed to the case concluding, and only four out of every 10 trials in the magistrates courts go ahead on the planned day. We cannot afford to maintain this sort of system that wastes the time of the police, victims and witnesses.

I am therefore working on radical plans to modernise and reform the criminal justice system and reduce these bureaucratic failings with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, the judiciary, the criminal justice agencies and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, who will take the lead role in co-ordinating our efforts. I look forward to receiving any representations on the subject and will report back to the House in the summer.