HC Deb 19 June 1972 vol 839 cc29-30
37. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

asked the Attorney-General what is the average time taken to bring cases to trial at London Criminal Courts after defendants have been committed by a local Bench.

The Attorney-General

The average waiting time in London between committal by magistrates' courts and hearing by the Crown Court is 14.9 weeks where the accused is in custody and 26.1 weeks where he is on bail. My noble Friend is continuing to take all possible steps to reduce the delays.

Mr. Finsberg

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a man committed by the Hampstead Bench in April, 1971, has not yet been brought to trial? The onus for this appears to rest on the failure of the Crown to supply witnesses. Will my right hon. and learned Friend investigate the general and the particular to try to speed up matters?

The Attorney-General

I shall investigate the particular case to which my hon. Friend referred. If he sends me details I shall see that it is at once looked into.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Would the Attorney-General agree that an average time of nearly four months for people waiting in custody is intolerable? What steps are being taken to rectify that situation?

The Attorney-General

I share the hon. and learned Gentleman's views about the length of time in London. In the provinces, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, it is much less—about eight weeks. What has happened is that up to the end of 1971, 15 more courts were provided; up to June, 1972, a further six; and by the autumn there will be a further 10. The House must bear in mind that in London not only is there the volume of cases but also the complexity of cases which are peculiar and particular to London. The best method of dealing with the problem is to have more courts, and these my noble Friend is pressing on to provide as quickly as possible.