Fewer cases before magistrates

MAGISTRATES' courts across Suffolk have seen a drop in the number of cases in the last year.An increase in police presence on the streets and a greater use of fixed penalty notices are just some of the reasons for the reduced workload.

MAGISTRATES' courts across Suffolk have seen a drop in the number of cases in the last year.

An increase in police presence on the streets and a greater use of fixed penalty notices are just some of the reasons for the reduced workload.

South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich saw a 28 per cent drop in the overall workload for all cases including crime, family proceedings, and licensing of pubs and clubs, for the year ending March 2007.

Chris Bowler, Justices' Clerk for Her Majesty's Courts Service Suffolk said the general drop in the number of cases brought to court is a knock-on effect of major changes to systems in the last few years.


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He said: “It is impossible to be precise as to why but the main factor is the transfer of licensing to local councils in November 2005. There have been fewer criminal prosecutions and likely causes are greater use of fixed penalty notices, changes in Crown Prosecution Service Charging policy and an increase police presence on the streets.”

In October 2005 statutory charging was introduced, which gave the CPS the responsibility to decide criminal charges, for all but minor offences. This has led to an increase in the number of guilty pleas, thus reducing the burden on the courts.

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In total the number of criminal cases in the last year across Suffolk magistrates' courts has decreased by 23.6 per cent and the number of those prosecuted in the court has also gone down by 34.4 per cent.

Ken Caley, chief crown prosecutor, said: “This decrease of criminal caseload has resulted in a reduction of budget allocation for CPS Suffolk, but more importantly it highlights the work of all of Suffolk criminal justice agencies who are working together to ensure Suffolk remains one of the safest counties.”

A police spokesman said: “Suffolk Constabulary, working with partner agencies is committed to making Suffolk a safe place to live and work.

“This year, with the introduction of 47 Safer Neighbourhood Teams across the county, together with the recruitment of a further 142 Police Community Support Officers there is a far greater visible police presence around the county.”

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