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Efficiency in the criminal justice system inquiry


Despite some improvements in the management of court cases, around two-thirds of criminal trials do not proceed as planned on the day they are originally scheduled. Delays and aborted hearings create extra work, waste scarce resources and undermine confidence in the justice system.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently found that although the management of cases has improved since 2010, the criminal justice system is not currently delivering value for money.

Inefficiencies are created where individuals and organisations do not get things right first time, and problems are compounded because mistakes often occur early in the life of a case and are not corrected. While there can be multiple points of failure as cases progress through the system, these mistakes are often not identified until it is too late.

A joint 2015 inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found that 18.2% of police charging decisions were incorrect. Such decisions should be picked up by the CPS before court, but 38.4% of cases were not reviewed before reaching court.

The Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are leading an ambitious reform programme which includes enabling more efficient digital working and the roll-out of a single digital case management system accessible by all parties. According to the NAO, this will provide the tools for a more efficient, less paper-based system, but it may not be sufficient on its own.