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Justice Minister Launches Proposals To Speed Up Justice

Justice Minister David Ford has today launched a consultation on measures to speed up the criminal justice system.
Monday, 19 November 2012

I want to give the judiciary stronger powers to tackle this problem and to ensure that cases are entering court ready to go to trial.

Minister of Justice David Ford MLA,Northern Ireland Department of Justice

He has set out four proposals for improvement and indicated his preferred option to develop rules for case management of criminal cases.

This would mean that the law would clearly state the standard of preparation expected for court and impose a legal duty to ensure that this standard was met.

David Ford said: “I have outlined my vision for reshaping the justice system and tackling delay.  These proposals demonstrate my continuing commitment to speeding up the justice system, in the interests of victims and witnesses

The consultation paper sets out four possible options for reform:

  • Option I – a general statutory duty to progress cases.
  • Option II – specific statutory duties with identified timescales.
  • Option III – case management procedure rules.
  • Option IV – placing the existing arrangements on statutory footing.

David Ford said:  “Poorly prepared cases waste the court’s time; they waste the resources of the system and they waste the time of witnesses.  

“They also have a detrimental impact on public confidence and on the defendant. Perhaps most serious of all, they can prolong the ordeal of victims.

“I want to give the judiciary stronger powers to tackle this problem and to ensure that cases are entering court ready to go to trial.”

The consultation period closes on 25 February 2013.  

Notes to Editors

  1. The consultation will run for 14 weeks and responses are sought by 25 February 2013.
  2. Download the consultation here.
  3. People who want to respond to the consultation paper, or ask questions about it should contact:
  4. Speeding up Justice Branch
    Department of Justice
    Massey House
    Stormont Estate
    BT4 3SL
    Telephone: (028) 9016 9508
    Email: Using title: Managing criminal cases
  5. The paper seeks views on four possible options to address the issue, including: a general statutory duty to progress cases, specific statutory duties with identified timescales, case management procedure rules and placing existing arrangements on statutory footing.
  6. It is the responsibility of both the defence and the prosecution to be ready to present their respective cases when they attend court.  Findings from reviews undertaken by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJINI) and the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Justice indicate there are three major issues causing delay in progressing criminal cases – lack of preparation for court, failure to agree witnesses or evidence and frequent adjournments. The management of individual cases at court stages is the responsibility of the independent judiciary
  7. The impact of prolonged cases has been highlighted to the Department as a major concern for victims and witnesses – it adds to the trauma for victims by drawing out their ordeal.  The need to improve the experience of victims is therefore a key driver in the Department’s work to speed up justice.
  8. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.