Delays in youth justice 'a cause for concern' with criminal cases taking average of more than five months in West Yorkshire

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Youth criminal cases took ​more than five months to complete on average in West Yorkshire last year, new figures reveal.

The Magistrates Association says a sluggish criminal justice system is damaging to vulnerable young offenders and victims, as case times hit a record high across England and Wales.

Ministry of Justice data shows it took the average young offender in the West Yorkshire local justice area 163 days from committing their offence to the final decision at court in 2018-19.

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Comparable data for previous years was not available, but across the two countries, the average case time hit 154 days – the longest since national records began in 2010-11.

Youth criminal cases taking five months in West YorkshireYouth criminal cases taking five months in West Yorkshire
Youth criminal cases taking five months in West Yorkshire | pa

John Bache, national chairman of the Magistrates Association, said more cash is needed for all areas of the system so justice can be administered swiftly and fairly.

“Delays in any part of the justice system are a cause for concern, but particularly in youth justice where they have an especially damaging impact on vulnerable children, young people and victims,” he added.

“It is especially concerning if delays lead to young people who commit crimes being tried in an adult court, if they turn 18 by the time their case comes to court.”

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Aika Stephenson, legal director of Just for Kids Law, said this was partly due to police forces’ increasing use of the release under investigation process, whereby a suspect is released under caution without charge, rather than being bailed.

Ms Stephenson said this has led to charged and bail cases being prioritised by the police and other services.

She added that court closures have also resulted in long delays, which could have “a huge detrimental impact” on well-being.

The Home Office recently launched a public consultation on bail conditions that will include looking at how the system of releasing people under investigation can be improved.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel said the review would help ensure the police can "investigate crimes effectively and swiftly".

An HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said that longer youth criminal cases were largely down to a rise in the time taken before a case reaches the courts.

He added: “The government has also allocated £55 million to make sure the justice system can respond to an expected increase in demand.”