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Process evaluation of the flexible criminal justice system pilots

Published: November 2013

Aim

We evaluated the flexible criminal justice system (CJS) pilots to identify good practice and understand the experiences of people involved in the pilots.

Read the full report.

The pilots tested the effectiveness of different operating models in improving the timeliness and efficiency of the CJS.

This evaluation was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice.

Findings

  • Organising staff resources was a priority across the models during implementation, with some sites finding this more difficult than others. Staff were generally more willing to start earlier than work late or at weekends. However, this also depended on the financial incentives offered, court accessibility and whether staff supported the overall aims of the pilot.
  • Extended courts involved earlier starts, later-finishing trials and time added to both ends of the day. Insufficient caseload was a key issue for extended models and courts generally finished no later than they had pre-pilot. Certain cases were felt more suitable than others for extended courts, such as motoring offences. Defendants’ attendance at early start courts was generally good, but listing staff reported a high number of requests for later slots.
  • Saturday courts ran without many operational difficulties, perhaps due to some courts already being open on a Saturday pre-pilot. Sufficient case volumes and staffing, as well as access to case information, were key to smooth delivery. For defendants, the main benefits reported were earlier release from police custody and avoiding having to take time off work to attend court.
  • Sunday courts posed a range of delivery challenges and to a greater degree than the other models. They attracted resistance and even complete withdrawal by some partner agencies who felt the pilots were not financially or operationally viable, and involved sacrificing their work-life balance.

Methodology

This was a qualitative study covering the range of flexible CJS models.

In-depth interviews and focus groups were conducted in nine pilot sites to capture the perspectives of stakeholders including magistrates, defence and prosecution solicitors, court staff, police and court users.

We also observed court proceedings.