The criminal justice system is undergoing its biggest transformation in 100 years, the outgoing chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service told the Gazette as public spending watchdogs warned that ‘ambitious’ reforms would not fully tackle inefficiencies.
Solicitor Peter Lewis (pictured), who has been with the CPS since its inception in 1986, led the agency’s participation in the programme to allow magistrates, judges, defenders and prosecutors to work from digital devices and present evidence to the court electronically.
As part of the programme, Wi-Fi is being installed in courts and judges will receive iPads.
Police are increasingly seizing evidence that is multimedia, Lewis said: ‘We cannot use digital evidence unless we have got a digital criminal justice system to use it with.’
The CPS and HM Courts & Tribunals Service are also developing a single digital case management system, Common Platform, which Lewis said was ‘really going to turn around the whole system’. For instance, it will allow defendants in traffic offences to make pleas online.
Meanwhile, a report from the National Audit Office said ‘ambitious’ reforms led by the Ministry of Justice, CPS and judiciary had the ‘potential’ to improve value for money but ‘will not address all the causes of inefficiency’ within the criminal justice system.
In Efficiency in the criminal justice system, the NAO said: ‘More also needs to be done to explore and address the wide regional variations in performance, and to create incentives that encourage all parties to operate in the best interests of the system as a whole.’
The report states that a victim of crime giving evidence at a Crown court trial in north Wales has a seven in 10 chance their case will go ahead. This drops to a two in 10 chance in Greater Manchester.
In 2014/15, the length of time between the offence and case completion ranged from 243 days in Durham to 418 days in Sussex.