Issues in Criminal Justice Concerns for Speedy Criminal Justice Process

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Introduction

The criminal justice is a subject of widespread heated debate in many quarters of the UK systems such as the Parliament the broadcast media as well as the print media, in professional journals and academia (Slapper & Kelly, 2017). Speeding up criminal justice in the UK criminal justice system is a significant concern in the jurisdiction now with a suggestion on how to make it efficient, less costly and still operate within the rights as well as give justice to the victims (University of Portsmouth, 2017). The criminal justice system has seen some continuous statutory in many perspectives such as the evidence, appeals, jurists or bail. There has always been a concern among the members of the public in Wales and UK about their criminal justice system and much of the complaints rely on the fact that convictions affect those they believe are innocent as guilty people escape. There are also issues of an injustice primarily due to malpractice or disastrous errors by the administrators of the criminal justice system (Slapper & Kelly, 2017). However, it has less to do with the issues surrounding the emergence of a speedy criminal justice system that the jurisdiction is fast adopting. This paper addresses, therefore, the concerns that arise from the rapid criminal justice processes.  

Specific Concerns

Numerous concerns exist with regards the new system of the quick criminal justice process. Most hold that technology can be applied to speed up the guilty pleas. The problem is that this process prioritises on quantity rather than the quality of the service. The technology is meant to facilitate instantaneous interactions between the prosecutors and the police, but this leads to the absence of human interaction, which is still necessary. Even so, the utilisation of such technology is also minimal due to cost-cutting measures hence a reduced capacity to utilise suggested technological milestones fully. It means ineffectiveness and less exhaustive service delivery in both ways. 

While increasing the speed at which criminal cases move through the courts, it means that the committal hearing that refers to administrative trials in the magistrate courts before cases proceed to the Crown Courts no longer exists. While it is a sure way for faster case determination, it results in more pressure on the crown courts as cases accumulate and adds into already piled up backlogs (Morse, 2016). In fact, the cases period improves cumulatively from about thirty-one days to an average of 5 days in magistrate courts. It is because the HMCTS and CPS would not have any additional capital to accommodate extra cases. In particular, the backlogs between 2013 and 2015 sees an increase of thirty-four percent according to the Comptroller and Auditor General (2016). 

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Aside from compounding problems as the system moves about cases with speed and at time lowering the efficiency of the system, speeding up the justice system relies on automation and technology-oriented justice system. It relies on essential data management and archiving of data. Without questioning the management of such data, there is a growing concern for the security of this data and ultimately the privacy of the victims or by extension, the confidential legal information. Data handling is an important issue in an e-justice system that affects all countries. It dictates the integrity, security or confidentiality of the information relating to a given case. When a system relies majorly on the automation of processes as the dictate of the speedy criminal justice system, control of physical or virtual access becomes a security and confidentiality concern. It also extends to data as well as document integrity (Rosa, Teixeira, & Pinto, 2013). 

In the UK, it is evident that speeding up court cases processing results in quicker prosecutions and improvement in court times that may result in the delivery of quality justice.  It leads to a reduction of inconvenience as well as anxiety to the witnesses and victims. However, to apply the concept of the appropriate target to support efficiency and speedy outcome of the cases, regards must refer to the fact that this is not a standalone principle of the justice system in the UK jurisprudence. Any of these targets ought to account for other relevant overreaching court objectives or the justice objectives, especially to the accused persons.  In particular, in protecting the rights of the accused as a principle of the justice process, the critical facets of that protection entails an entitlement to adequate time and facilities for defence preparation as well as representation. It, therefore, maintains without saying that quick criminal justice process contravenes this very right (The Scottish Government, 2003). Other principles that also have the direct overreaching effect to the concept of rushed criminal justice process whose primary target is the cases completion and determination include issuance of notice for requirements that should appear in court as a witness. Tight timelines conflict the ample time for the witness or the defence to prepare for the case hence is a concern of the increased speed in criminal justice administration system. 

Speeding up the criminal justice system through the modern technology focused on curbing delay and waste in the judicial system. However, the plan will involve the extension of the court sitting times to accommodate the use of video technology in the court process. A fundamental critique would maintain that the system will be more tiresome and annoying, as it would result in fatigue and ultimate boredom. It is due to long hours of machine interactions at the very least. However, the concern is the emphasis on speed as on the face value, the goal of waste and delay reduction is a new and laudable concept to the judicial system (Atkinson, 2012). In this perspective, little attention applies the balance of speed and justice that has a fundamental basis in acquitting the innocent and conviction for the guilty as opposed to focusing on the time factor or retribution desires. 

While there is no denying the position and vital role video technology must play in a justice system, which tied to efficiency, it should focus on reducing costs of transportation between prisons and court. However, the concern is that it is more for speedy hearing than the administrative hearing, especially for the first trial. The problem with this is that most defendants do not get hold of their lawyers before the first interview hence most of the cases result in the defendants taken to prison without a chance to talk with their lawyers in person. It is also uncommon that vital proceedings of the court such as the first hearing take place via video conferencing. It works against the defendant since they have no time to build trust and confidence with their lawyers hence can hold back confidential information that would otherwise help lessen or leverage their case (Atkinson, 2012). 

In the justice system, video conferencing that aims to improve the speed at which the guilty plea comes by is subject to a lot of criticism and controversy. It is not simple to rely on video conferencing to conclude guilt or not guilty just by knowledge of the fact that the defendant did the alleged actions or not. The cases must go to the extent of addressing possible mental facets such as perpetrators intention. The concern is because defence such as for duress or reasonable excuse may maintain defendant deliberate delicate personal information that may be subject to suppression of such information especially when a stranger interacts with them over a video link.

Another angle to the speed increase in criminal case proceedings is through plans for flexible hours. However, minimal consultations with the defence practitioners raise concerns, especially when notices takes centre stage as opposed to discussions with the defence practitioners. The flexibility of the courts increases the matter since it conflicts the principle of consultative stakeholder relationship. Even with the recognition of falling caseloads in the courts by the government agencies, the ultimate result in a controversial increase in court sitting hours. According to Atkinson (2012), the pilot envisions are potential to increase the cost of administrative system operations at a time when spending cuts are necessary for every government agency in the UK. 

The concern of the extension of working hours is not just with the defence practitioners or defendants but also among the solicitors. In fact, they oppose the extension. For the critics, their concern is that the arguments for the justice principle of delivery without delay while, on the other hand, suppressing the court cases that could otherwise take few hours or days still lies in court (Bowcott, 2012). The principle of justice delayed is justice denied applies here but the unnecessary speedy process yet some cases still lie in court is what the critics say “speaking with both sides of the mouth.” 

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Issues with the increased demands on the speed of the criminal justice system are a perfect case of Birmingham 6 and the Guildford Four. In these two cases, the police round up suspects and bring them to book as quickly as they could (BBC, n.d). It only took the efforts of Television investigative skills of journalists and an MP, Chris Mullin to highlight the injustice of the Birmingham six. In this case, wrong people convicted and the speedy trial crystallised what became the phrase “Miscarriage of Justice” because of the mistakes of the two cases (BBC, n.d). It shows the history of discontent with a rushed criminal justice system in the UK through a perspective of rumbling discontent from the eighties. 

The concern of injustice especially when the investigation and prosecution happen unnecessarily fast may be potential to the hiding of evidence by police or the prosecution. Apart from the fact that the defendants lack necessary time to collect evidence and prepare a stronger defence, fabrication of events is also possible by the trial (BBC, n.d). In most cases, an overestimation of the evidential value more significant injustice to the defendant may be apparent. It is not to mention inadequate identification of the suspects. Ultimately, the primary concern point of the increased speed in criminal justice administration in the UK as per the recent regulations affects the same justice served to the victims and the perpetrators. 

Even with the speedy criminal justice system, there is hardly time in such a case to recognise and finally correct mistakes. In fact, this is evident in the Supreme Court that most of the pressure groups accuse of being adamant in identifying standard errors in the proceedings and judgment to ultimately correct them. In some cases, the pressure exerted on judge’s means that they give inconclusive judicial decisions and this is detrimental to the justice system. In particular, the court in the tight schedule is an adversarial system with potential result of being a localised upmarket dramatic society. This, dramatic scene, BBC Online (n.d) defines to entail two protagonists, the prosecutor, and the defence attorney. However, it is unfortunate that in this case, the defence may lack time to learn his/her line before the case determination (BBC, n.d). On the other side, the miscarriage of justice in this context can result from weak prosecution case, and this is a concern that relies on lack of enough investigation time to build up a case. It is because, for a jury, an amalgamation of circumstantial evidence and forensic evidence that is contentious or tenuous might temp a jury to the extent of deceit. 

In conclusion, the speedy criminal justice system that has seen revolution since the early 2000’s in a bid to become more technology reliant and ultimately improve its effectiveness results in contentious debates. In this effort, the system attracts criticism and praise in equal measures. What stands out in increasing the speed of the criminal justice deliberation is the concern for quality, credibility, and room for errors. Judicial procedure requires not to be an injustice to the suspects such as in some case studies for the UK judicial system and its bid to hasten the process. Video conferencing is an excellent technology for hearing cases but fails to be a credible medium especially for the mentioning of cases. A defendant requires personal interaction with their lawyers to help build a strong case, and they require time to gather evidence and draft defence. Time is also a critical factor for the prosecutor to help make a claim. 

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  1. Atkinson, R. (2012, July 18). Virtual courts: more speed, less justice? The Guadian.
  2. BBC NEWS. (n.d.). Life of Crime: Part 3. 
  3. Bowcott, O. (2012, July 13). UK Criminal Justice: ‘Swift justice’ could resolve court cases within hours. The Guardian.
  4. Morse, A. (2016). Efficiency in the criminal justice system. London : National Audit Office.
  5. Rosa, J., Teixeira, C., & Pinto, J. (2013, July 3). Risk factors in e-justice information systems. Government Information Quarterly, 30(3), pp. 241-256.
  6. Slapper, G., & Kelly, D. (2017). The English Legal System. Oxford: Taylor and Francis.
  7. The Scottish Government. (2003, March). Criminal Justice System Objectives Review Proposals for the Integration of Aims, Objectives and Targets in the Scottish Criminal Justice System. University of Portsmouth . (2017). Issues Concerning Speeding Up Justice: Learning Resources, The new plan for a speedy and efficient criminal justice system
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