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Delay in the Administration of Criminal Justice - Commonwealth Developments and Experience

NCJ Number
J A Osborne
Date Published
223 pages
The causes and consequences of court delays and various ameliorative measures that have been pursued in British Commonwealth jurisdictions are discussed.
The survey of court delay in the countries of the Commonwealth indicated that the extent of delay in each country varies considerably. For some jurisdictions, usually the smaller developing nations, the problem has not yet emerged; whereas, in the industrialized nations, it is an issue of great concern. Some causes of court delay considered are an increasing crime rate, the expanded network of laws, the inaccessibility to courts of persons in isolated geographic areas, inadequate police and prosecutorial screening, the lengthy process of securing legal aid, and the growing number of complex cases. Topics covered in the section on dealing with delay are preliminary procedures, curtailing committal proceedings, guilty pleas and plea bargaining, expediting the hearing of the evidence, jury trial, speeding up the appellate process, and courts administration. The use of alternative procedures and specialized courts is also examined, along with keeping cases out of court through decriminalization, depenalization and diversion, and conciliation. An examination of procedures to cut delays indicates that procedures which may save time at one stage of the criminal justice process may produce serious delays at another stage; that informal time-saving mechanisms can become rigid and formalized and consequently of little benefit; and that using modern technology and administrative techniques in the court system can be useful, but that many changes, such as those aimed at streamlining jury trials, decriminalization, or diverting people from the system, will affect only a small portion of criminal cases. Extensive footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography with listings under various Commonwealth countries are provided.