HL Deb 08 July 2002 vol 637 cc66-7WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what extent there are national or local shortages of qualified clerks and other administrative staff in magistrates' courts; whether this is causing delays in hearing cases; and, if so, what remedial measures are in hand. [HL4790]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

Accurate information about the extent of national or local shortages is not available.

In England and Wales the average number of days from first listing to completion in all criminal cases reduced from 36 days in February 2000 to 34 days in March 2002.

An informal survey of magistrates' courts committees (MCC) found that just over half said they had experienced some shortages of court clerks; less than half of the MCCs have also experienced shortages of other administrative staff. Less than half said that this has contributed to some delays in hearing cases, although to varying degrees.

Some of the measures that MCCs are taking to address the problem include reviewing salaries, considering flexible working patterns and offering training and development packages to attract interest in vacant positions. Staff shortages and delays are presently being taken into account in the Government's spending review.