New police courts dealing with offenders who plead guilty to low-level offences can considerably speed up the criminal justice system, a former prisons governor said in a report published today.

Kevin Lockyer, who has worked in prison and probation management for more than 25 years, advised the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to introduce the new courts, with magistrates sitting in, or nearby, police stations in a bid to tackle delays in the system.

‘This will considerably speed up the process of a significant amount of simple cases by hearing them on the spot rather than delaying dispensing justice simply for the case to be heard in a conventional courtroom,’ Lockyer said in thinktank Policy Exchange’s report, Swift and Certain: A new paradigm for criminal justice.

In the meantime, police and crime commissioners should trial police court models in their local areas, the report suggests.

Lockyer, who governed three prisons and held senior roles in the National Offender Management Service, also recommended that prolific and priority offenders (PPOs) be fast-tracked in magistrates’ courts, using dedicated magistrates and/or district judges.

Around 10% of PPOs are responsible for half of all serious crime. With sentencing delays of more than two weeks, the report proposes that PPOs who plead guilty should be sentenced within 24 hours of the decision to charge.

The report looks at the successful impact of ‘Swift and Certain’ programmes in the US, which were designed to manage offenders more effectively on probation and community supervision.