The Crime Survey for England and Wales confirms that two thirds of people have confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system. Just under half have confidence in its effectiveness. The Ministry of Justice recently noted, with modest satisfaction, that these figures had very marginally increased. However, these metrics also mean that millions of people still don’t have confidence in something so central to a healthy state.
The Crown Prosecution Servicerecently published its own survey, finding that half of all victims and more than a third of witnesses feel unsupported while giving evidence. This should be a grave cause for wider concern too.
This digest of a remarkable and insightful major piece of work by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and newly published by Policy Press as Inside Crown Court, illuminates brilliantly the actual impact Crown Court hearings have on victims,witnesses and defendants. While it acknowledges that many trials and other hearings are concluded satisfactorily, it also highlights the human distress and frustration caused by a courts system that too often appears to operate with all the efficiency of the nineteenth century in the first half of the twenty-first.
The Crown Court is, of course, just one part of our judicial ecology. However, as a crucible for the resolution of much of the worst criminal activity it has a particularly high profile in our public consciousness. That’s why it matters so much.
The Criminal Justice Alliance – which works in partnership with our 90 member organisations promoting better outcomes across the criminal justice pathway – has added to these research findings its own recommendations for a range of agencies from the Ministry of Justice to the Courts and Tribunals Service. If each rose to the challenges this report offers, not only would the experience of thousands of court users improve but public confidence in our whole criminal justice system might well be materially enhanced.
Over to the read to look at the report and decide. As ever, constructive comments are welcome.