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January 28, 2015

Radical ideas from Leveson – the impact of prisoner transport on criminal courts

The new Leveson report on efficiency in criminal proceedings contains a number of radical ideas.  One of his observations is that there is no coherent “systems approach” to efficiency, that those involved do not have a sufficient financial interest in that efficiency.   So Leveson cites the contracts for prisoner transport, whereby the private contractors are only obliged to meet a 90% success rate in getting prisoners where they are supposed to go which means  “that one in 10 prisoners may not be ready for court when they ought to be and yet the contractors will still be delivering to contract…This has a huge knock-on effect on the business of the court in those cases, particularly where one or more prisoner concerned is significantly late. Furthermore, under the present contract for those travelling more than 45 miles, arrival at or after the time that the court is due to start is not a breach of the delivery time …The cost of lost time to the court system appears to be ignored. I would urge those responsible to reconsider the terms of any future contract with prisoner movement providers. They must demand greater efficiency and properly manage performance of the contract.”  Leveson is totally right on this one.  The waste of court time waiting for prisoners who are late or who do not turn up, must be colossal for HMCTS, CPS and the Judiciary.  But it also affects the costs of the poor defence practitioners and others whose time costs money.

Given his observation on transport sand the knock-on costs of inefficiency there, it is a bit of a mystery that he does not mention interpreters.  Again the centralised, privately provided contract is not sufficiently tight, and huge numbers of court hearings are delayed because there is no interpreter.  Capita has not met its target of meeting 98% of courts requests for interpreters since their contract came in to effect on 30 January 2012.  Thus has produced chaos in the courts, and increased the distress of victims and witnesses.  Yet the company is not penalised when an interpreter does not turn up.  I have no idea why Leveson makes no mention of this problem, but my understanding is that it produces as much delay as prisoner transport.