NI: Bar of NI urges consideration of ‘underlying causes’ of justice delays

The Bar of Northern Ireland has urged the Department of Justice to address the “underlying causes of delays” in the criminal justice system in addition to its exploration of statutory time limits (STLs).

In its response to a consultation on the introduction of statutory time limits for progressing criminal cases in Northern Ireland, the Bar said it agreed that access to justice must be delivered “in a timely fashion”.

However, it added: “The Bar believes that any efforts to introduce statutory time limits must also recognise the need to address the underlying causes of delays in the system.

“The general experience of criminal practitioners suggests that much of the delay in proceedings across the criminal justice system can be located in a number of areas, namely: delays in the investigative process, delays in the putting together of prosecution files, problems in relation to secondary and third party disclosure, lack of witness availability and lack of court time.

“Whilst it is important that cases are concluded within a reasonable time frame it is also vital that they are conducted fairly with the provision of high quality legal representation in order to preserve public confidence in the system.

“Experienced counsel play an integral role in promoting these high standards and often save the court time and money by identifying any procedural issues.”

The Bar also said any statutory time limit should begin from the point where the accused is informed that the case is being proceeded.

It also said 120 days between the start point and a case going to trial would the most appropriate length to begin testing an STL system.

The full consultation response is available here.

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