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‘Designed in the 19th century’: Leveson calls for court system reforms

Lord Justice Leveson has called for reforms to streamline the justice system in England and Wales for greater efficiency.

The President of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir Brian Leveson made recommendations to improve efficiency of the UK’s outdated criminal proceedings including the greater use of video technology and body cameras worn by police, flexible opening hours in magistrate courts, and tighter case management by judges.

The report was commissioned by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, to find ways to make criminal justice more efficient and streamlined. The review involved looking into all concerned with the operation of the criminal justice system including all ranks of the judiciary, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Law Society and the Bar, HM Courts & Tribunals Service, and the Ministry of Justice – including the Legal Aid Agency.

Brian Leveson said: ‘The changes I have recommended are all designed to streamline the way the investigation and prosecution of crime is approached without ever losing sight of the interests of justice. Our conduct of criminal trials was designed in the 19th century with many changes and reforms bolted on, especially over the last 30 years. The result is that it has become inefficient, time consuming and, as a result, very expensive. It is clear that all aspects of the system are going to have to live with diminished resources for years to come.’

The review was conducted to address the decrease in public funding for the CJS and consider ways to streamline the disposal of criminal cases. The Bar Council in particular welcomed the recommendations: ‘Reform of parts of the criminal justice system is long overdue. Greater efficiency is in the interests of all those involved in the justice system,’ said Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar. ‘We are pleased to see that the review echoes many of the points made in submissions by the Bar Council’s Criminal Justice Reform Group, which has undertaken its own research and is playing a leading role in helping to identify savings and efficiencies within the Criminal Justice System.’