More cases brought before Suffolk courts
MORE criminals are being brought before the courts in Suffolk than ever before, new figures reveal.The number of cases in the county's magistrates' courts increased by 24% during the past 12 months, from 14,139 in 2002-03 to 17,592 in 03-04.
By Danielle Nuttall
MORE criminals are being brought before the courts in Suffolk than ever before, new figures reveal.
The number of cases in the county's magistrates' courts increased by 24% during the past 12 months, from 14,139 in 2002-03 to 17,592 in 03-04.
There was also a 13% rise in the number of crown court cases, from 971 last year to 1,106 by the end of April this year, according to figures published by Suffolk Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
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Suffolk's Chief Prosecutor Chris Yule said the rise was due to joint initiatives to bring more criminals to court and also greater crime detection by the police.
A new scheme launched last year now means lawyers are present in police stations to assist officers with advice before they make a charge so cases do not flounder before they get to court, he said.
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The new pre-charging advice and increased caseload has meant Suffolk CPS costs amounted to about £2.3million last year, and Mr Yule said staff had endured significant increases in pressure.
"Cases are being put together in a better way. Police are bringing more cases to justice, higher detection rates," said Mr Yule.
"The work we are putting in together as an agency is beginning to bear fruit.
"I would have to say my staff are under quite considerable pressure and they are working intensively to cope with both the additional responsibility of providing charging advice and also the additional caseload going through the courts.
"What has helped is the appointment of a district judge and that has increased the through-put in the courts. The district judge tends to move more swiftly in dealing with more cases."
Mr Yule said Suffolk's budget was set according to the caseload already undertaken by the service midway through the year, and this represented the cash that it would receive for the next year's budget.
"Our budget always lags behind if you have got increasing caseload," said Mr Yule
"We have managed to keep our costs within the budget we have been set. Yes, we would love to have more money to be able to employ more lawyers but as things stand at the moment we are coping and we are putting our staff under pressure," he added.
The service has seen success in other areas during the past year, including the number of cases that are either dropped or result in a not guilty verdict fall from 24.2% to 20.4%.
At the same time, the number of guilty pleas in the magistrates court increased from 8,567 in 2002-03 to 9,860 last year while they rose from 436 to 469 in the crown courts.
It is also the best-performing county in the country in relation to the speed at which young offenders are charged and sentenced with an average of 41 days – 30 days less than the Government's target.
For the next year Suffolk CPS is aiming to increase support and information for witnesses and victims by developing a Victim and Witness Care Unit.
This will be a single point of contact for both crown court and magistrates witnesses and will improve the quality of personal contact.
There is also a new project to appoint case progression officers to oversee some cases to make sure they run smoothly and ultimately reduce the risks they are unsuccessful.
"I am pleased that the staff have performed so well and broadly speaking I still remain amazed at their commitment to the work they do," said Mr Yule.
"People who go the extra mile to ensure cases are dealt with properly. It's that kind of commitment I am really pleased about and which shows hopefully we are still serving people in Suffolk and serving them well."