Ministers call for 'swift justice'

The criminal justice system can be opaque, impenetrable, too concerned with defendants and too little concerned about victims, according to the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister .

Justice "must be swift, sure and seen to be done, or it's not done at all", said Nick Herbert.

Backing the use of technology and calling for more efficiency, he said that the state too often acted "like a bad parent, neglectful in repeatedly tolerating bad behaviour and then inevitably harsh".

"As well as dealing with defendants swiftly, we need to get a proper grip on them, taking the right action to prevent them sliding into ever more serious crimes," Mr Herbert said.

Launching the Government's "swift and sure justice" White Paper, he said there has been a culture within the criminal justice system which has tolerated delay and which must change. There were 53 separate processes for one common assault case, he said, leading to it taking 15 weeks despite the fact the case only needed six hours of work.

"Justice must be swift, sure and seen to be done, or it's not done at all," he said. The system "can be opaque and impenetrable" and "we must open the system up", he added. "It can be too concerned with defendants and too little concerned about victims."

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, broadly welcomed the moves, saying the justice system could be "painfully slow" for victims and witnesses.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "I hope the Government are going to explain exactly how this is going to be funded. The fear is that these proposals are simply designed to save money. And if this results in the cutting of corners within our justice system, it increases the risk of miscarriages of justice, which will further erode the public's confidence."

Richard Atkinson, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law committee, said: "We are concerned by the Government's obsession with speed and its apparent belief that speed and efficiency is one and the same thing.

"In particular, we question whether there is any need for weekend courts at a time when the numbers of criminal cases are declining and when these proposals will cause problems for prisons and the availability of other professionals in the system."