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SPEEDY JUSTICE IS SET TO SWEEP THROUGH MIDLANDS.

Byline: BY BOB HAYWOOD

CRIMINALS in the Midlands are feeling the full force of speedy justice.

They are being whisked off to court and sentenced in a new move to stop cases being bogged down for months.

The new system - Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary - has already been successfully pioneered in Coventry by West Midlands Police.

Now it is being rolled out across the force area.

The crimefighting initiative's targets include ensuring that six out of 10 cases are dealt with at the first court hearing - within a week of criminals being charged.

In not guilty cases, the aim is to get a conviction or acquittal in just two court dates.

As suspects, even in serious matters, are often on bail while the system stumbles, they are at large to strike again.

The fast-track move comes as police, lawyers and court officials have become increasingly despondent at the length of time it is taking for cases to reach court, and then to be finalised.

Now, officers with West Midlands Police have been urged to ensure they have all their paperwork in order to ensure that crooks cannot spin out the road to justice.

They have been told: "The police and Crown Prosecution Service have to be better prepared for the first court hearing while ensuring pre-court preparation is proportionate to the type of offence."

Paul Hartland, Criminal Justice project manager for the West Midlands and a former police inspector, has told police officers: "Have you ever waited months for a simple case in the magistrates' court to come to trial?

"Have you ever been warned to give evidence at a trial only for nothing to happen on the day, or for the defendant to change their plea at the last moment?

"Just imagine the improvement in the service offered to victims and witnesses: no delays in the system; no unnecessary taking away of officers from operational duties to waste time in court, and no waste of public money."

Mr Hartland said: "This is an exciting initiative.

"Too often, as a police inspector, I had to contact victims and witnesses to say 'sorry' - sorry the system is slow and has let you down, sorry your case didn't go ahead.

"The Speedy system aims to build public confidence, and perhaps we will not have to say sorry so often.

"The courts will expect the defendant to enter a plea at an early stage, and the culture of routine adjournments will go."

Fears that crooks will be more likely to enter a not guilty plea as a banker and therefore slow down, rather than speed up, justice have so far been unfounded.

In Coventry, the number of guilty pleas at the first court hearing has gone up by 20 per cent, leading to speculation that when criminals know the court system is working efficiently they will put their hands up.

bobhaywood@mrn.co.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 30, 2007
Words:481
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