The criminal justice process is being pushed toward greater efficiency. Nothing wrong with that, as it should help with the profitability of firms acting for defendants. But what does ‘efficiency’ mean?
In a magistrates’ court case where a guilty plea is anticipated, one is given a police report, victim impact statements and antecedents of the client.
Often, however, the interview is an issue, especially for a vulnerable, unrepresented person. Also, CCTV might help the court understand the police summary or indeed help mitigate.
The only way to get this and further specific disclosure is to plead not guilty, thus putting the client at risk as to costs and any sentence discount for an early guilty plea. It also takes more time and costs more.
Until an IT platform is developed to allow access to all evidence, the criminal justice system will be inefficient.
Too much of the reform process is based upon what one constituent party considers to be efficient. This approach itself creates inefficiency.
A common, agreed definition of ‘efficient’ and a concerted effort by all agencies and participants (including defence practitioners) could lead to true efficiency – and might work.
Michael Robinson, Emmersons, Newcastle upon Tyne