HC Deb 30 July 1997 vol 299 cc262-3W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he proposes to take on the recommendations of the review of delay in the criminal justice system. [12153]

Mr. Straw

The review of delay in the criminal justice system was set up in October 1996 and its report was published on 27 February 1997. Interested parties were then invited to comment on the 33 recommendations in the report. My right hon. and learned Friends the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General and I have considered these recommendations, taking account of the responses received, and we have concluded that many of them have the potential substantially to reduce delay without impairing the quality of justice.

We have therefore decided to accept the following recommendations, making legislative provision, where necessary, in the Crime and Disorder Bill: those which are designed to enable straightforward guilty plea cases to be dealt with a day or two after charge, thus restoring the concept of summary justice; proposals for improving case management in magistrates courts by allowing certain powers to be exercised by a single justice and to be further delegated where appropriate to clerks to the Justices; the proposal that indictable-only cases should begin in the Crown court (subject to arrangements being agreed for dealing with remand hearings, submissions of no case to answer and related matters); and some recommendations for procedural changes in the Youth court.

The recommendations relating to legal aid, which complement many of those provisions, will be considered by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor in the light of the pervious Government's proposed reforms and Sir Peter Middleton's review of legal aid which is now in progress.

We are not persuaded that the case for removing defendants' right of election has yet been made out, but since responses to the consultation exercise showed some substantial support for this proposal, we shall consider this question further, with a view to publishing a more detailed consultation paper in due course.

The Government's response to all the recommendations of the review of delay in the criminal justice system is set out in a document which has been placed in the Library.