‘Prime cause’ of court delays still not pinned down
HOME AFFAIRS has yet to establish the ‘prime cause’ behind court delays that led to the number of pending trials increasing eight-fold.
The matter came to a head in July when a man was fined just £1 for behaving in a disorderly manner.
He had to wait 13 months to be sentenced, at which point no evidence was offered on a charge of resisting officers.
The delay was branded ‘unconscionable’ by Judge Graeme McKerrell, with a Guernsey Police spokesman saying it was one of 15 cases that had been delayed for months.
At that time, the number of pending trials had increased from an average of five at one time to about 40.
Home Affairs chief secretary Adrian Lewis said they were working with Law Enforcement, the law officers and the Legal Aid Service, among others, to identify exactly what had caused these delays.
‘There are multiple factors at play. What we have not yet got to the bottom of is whether there is a prime cause,’ he said.
‘You are right, it is not the situation we want to be in, and it requires all the parties to get together [in order to establish] whether it’s the way we are doing things, whether the policies we are working to are correct.
‘It is not only ours [our concern] but the courts’ as well.’
The committee was also asked whether it had any intention of extending Les Nicolles, a ‘possibility’ that was raised by Deputy Mary Lowe in the States if the prison population continued to increase.
‘It was right and proper that we put a marker down in the States,’ said the Home Affairs president. ‘We are seeing an increase in long-term sentences and a reduction in short-term sentences – the courts are using what they see as appropriate.’
‘[Extending Les Nicolles] is a possibility, but it is certainly not on the radar for that to be happening at this moment in time.’
She said it would be the start of a ‘slippery slope’ if politicians were to influence what sentences are administered by the courts.
‘It is isn’t for us to make a hard line [on the kind of sentences handed out], it is for the courts to decide with the tools we have given them.’