Font Size: A A A

Home > News > Vertical Markets > Government > Justice paper


Justice paper

One magistrate instead of two or three might deal with shop theft court cases, it is suggested by the Ministry of Justice. The Government has published its White Paper on criminal justice reform, Swift and Sure Justice: the Government’s Plans for Reform of Criminal Justice.



The document says that a significant proportion of the workload of the magistrates’ courts is made up of low-level, uncontested cases. “These include cases such as unruly behaviour, shoplifting and criminal damage offences, where the defendant has been charged with the offence by the police and a guilty plea is anticipated. These offences are often more relevant to community concerns and might benefit from a localised approach.” 


Proposed are simpler ways of dealing with what the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)  terms low-level, summary offences, such as shoplifting. These cases take on average 38 days from charge to completion but the MoJ says that it knows this is due to a small proportion of cases taking substantially longer to complete.Around half of these cases take 18 days or fewer to complete from charge.


The White Paper says that plans are in place to ensure that the criminal justice system is ‘responsive and flexible’ for the London Olympics. This will include bringing defendants to court quickly after an offence has been committed, and using ‘virtual courts’ to enable defendants to appear via video link from a police station to the court.


The MoJ says that the document sets out reform which builds on some of the lessons learned from the response to last year’s riots, when the police, prosecutors and courts worked together – and offenders were brought to justice within days, sometimes even hours.


According to the MoJ the paper sets out plans to modernise criminal justice services, speed up court cases, improve transparency so the public can understand how the system works, and engage local communities in dealing with low-level offending.


Justice Minister Nick Herbert said: ‘We want a more flexible Criminal Justice System, including extending opening hours for courts, maximising the use of technology through virtual courts and prison to court video links and we are looking at radical proposals to speed up cases where offenders plead guilty. The criminal justice system must be more transparent and accountable to the local communities it services, so we are opening up the justice system and involving communities directly in resolving problem behaviour and low-level crimes, as well as introducing Police and Crime Commissioners to make the system democratically answerable to the public.’


View the White Paper on the MoJ website –


ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) responded to the Ministry of Justice White Paper, Swift and Sure Justice, which outlines the changes being made to the justice system following last year’s riots


ACPO lead for Criminal Justice, Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle, said: “Recent years have seen significant developments that all serve to make the criminal justice system more efficient without compromising the overriding objective that criminal cases be dealt with justly.  The current and ambitious efficiency programme has made very good progress but we recognise there is more to do to embed new processes and continue to pursue greater efficiency especially in a modern digital age. That has to be in the best interests of victims, prosecution and defence witnesses and all parties within the wider criminal justice system.”


Related News