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More than one in three trials in Sussex courts postponed
The justice system in Sussex could suffer huge delays, thanks to new working practices with prisoners waiting longer before they go to trial.
Up to 40 percent of court trials have been postponed in Sussex, due to a change in working timetables.
New amendments to court rotas means the county’s four crown courts – Lewes, Hove, Brighton and Chichester – and magistrates’ courts are focusing more on trial courts than remand courts.
But a senior prosecutor has admitted trials take a lot longer to prepare than other courts – where people enter pleas, for example – and this is leading to justice being postponed.
Senior District Crown Prosecutor Nigel Knight said: “The court rotas have recently been amended in Sussex, reducing the number of remand courts and increasing the number of trials listed by over 50%.
“Trial courts require significantly more preparation by the Crown Prosecution Service, as for every trial, we have to carry out our disclosure obligations.
“This means carrying out a thorough review of all the material has been submitted to us in a case, so we can comply with our obligations to disclose any relevant material to the defence.
“We are devoting as much resource as we can to preparing for trials within our existing staffing levels. However, we can only prepare between 80 and 100 trials each week and, at present, around 140 trials are being listed in Sussex each week, which is resulting in some cases being adjourned.
“We are working closely with the court service and our criminal justice partners and have made a number of suggestions as to how we can resolve this issue together and we are awaiting a further response from them.”
A court source, who asked not to be named, told The Argus: “I have been told people have been told to get on with it.”
Street pastor Ian Chisnall, who stood for Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is incredibly concerning. At the end of the day justice is only ever going to be served if there is enough funding. If it breaks down there will be a detrimental effect.”
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