Justice system 'still Dickensian'

Charles Dickens would have recognised elements of today's courts system, Green claims
Charles Dickens would have recognised elements of today's courts system, Green claims

By politics.co.uk staff

Britain's criminal justice system is still afflicted by some of the weaknesses of Charles Dickens' day, a minister has claimed.

Damian Green said elements of the courts system depicted by Dickens in Bleak House could still be spotted in current arrangements.

He will outline a series of reforms designed to reduce delays in the justice process in a speech later.


Driving and shoplifting cases are expected to be fast-tracked under the plans, which Green is pushing forward to address what he called "shocking and unforgiveable" delays.

"To the wider public who come into contact with it – as witnesses, defendants or jurors, but most crucially, as victims - this is a system that often does not deliver the level of service they expect, want or deserve," he is expected to say later.

"The world has speeded up beyond recognition since Dickens wrote Bleak House. The criminal courts have, to be polite, made less progress."

Only 44% of trials in magistrates courts go ahead as planned. Green wants to introduce new fast-track courts which will deal with cases more 'efficiently'.

"Nobody involved in the system finds it shocking, because that's just the way it is," he told the Telegraph newspaper.

"Actually, with a completely fresh pair of eyes, this is shocking, this is not acceptable. Delays cause extra crime."

He said delays meant offenders like drug addicts were left without treatment for months, increasing crime levels as a result.

"The faster you can get it through, the more likely you are to have gone through the system, be put on probation and these days hopefully to be put on a drug rehabilitation programme which will stop you needing to shoplift in the first place," Green added.

"That's a very direct link between a more efficient system and a system that actually helps cut crime."

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