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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 10:41 GMT
Is our justice system costing too much?
All eyes have been on the courts in the UK over the past week with three high profile jury trials all reaching their conclusion.

The trial of Leeds United footballers Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer ended with Woodgate being found guilty of affray following a lengthy trial. The first trial collapsed after an article in a Sunday newspaper.

Roy Whiting was convicted of the kidnap and murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne by a jury of nine men and three women at Lewes Crown Court after a trial lasting almost four weeks.

Gary Hart was convicted of 10 charges of causing death by dangerous driving in the Selby train crash trial.

But with numerous lengthy jury trials all taking place simultaneously, the cost to the public can be significant.

Is the justice system costing the taxpayer too much? Do you think it is time for a review of the legal system? Should there be a time limit placed on jury trials?

This Talking Point was suggested by Brian Kelly, UK :

With jury trials costing more than 8,000 per day, how much value for money are we getting from our criminal justice system?

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This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Gary Hart, we are told, must be punished by imprisonment for the effects that his falling asleep had on the lives of others. What of the effect on the lives of others when judges fall asleep during trials? Can Mr Hart look forward to some illustrious company in HMP. Somehow, I doubt it. One law for them, another for us.
David, UK

The justice system is fundamental to democracy

Robert Fawkes Jenkins, UK
Have we reached a point when we consider every aspect of society in terms of value for money? The justice system is fundamental to democracy and if one argues for a simpler criminal procedure which aims to convict people easily, then one may as well argue for a fascist state.
Robert Fawkes Jenkins, UK

We've gone too far down the road of lenient sentencing. The most exasperating aspects of the judicial process stem from the current inclination to give community service, minimal fines or minor custodial sentences to criminals who have a huge financial impact on the police, society and the process of law. It is time to have some clear and punitive sentencing which includes strong financial penalties consistent with the cost of the crime, its investigation and prosecution costs.
Mike Grundy, UK

I am sure that it is no coincidence at all that most of our politicians are lawyers, and that lawyers receive high fees for their work with the government. It is time that lawyers' salaries were brought into line with civil servants or police officers.
Guy Hammond, England

It's the price you pay for a free society

Jeff, USA
I realise that the court system is costing taxpayers millions. We in the US have that problem too. However, it's the price you pay for a free society. The Soviet Union had a court system that was cheap, efficient and cost-effective but thousands upon thousands of innocent people were sent to prison and/or denied a fair trial.
Jeff, USA

I feel that our basic system of dealing with criminals is in itself too complicated. That is the start of rising costs. Simplicity will create an impact on the criminal because it will be made clear what will happen to them, no ifs, no buts. The cost to the taxpayer will be greatly reduced as a result of less faffing about and the money can be spent on things that tax should be spent on, like the NHS.
Dave, UK

All lawyers should have fixed salaries on a par with the NHS consultants, and be employed by the government. Private legal practice can remain the sole domain for celebrities and newspapers to fight over in libel cases.
Chris, UK

I personally think that it is quite cheap, assuming that that price is in fact accurate. Think about: cost of the judge and his officers, the cost of two barristers (possibly more), the cost of the maintenance and upkeep of the courthouse plus the cost to employers of needing to cover for absent staff on jury service....

Too many lawyers are paid by the hour, so there is no incentive for them to present evidence succinctly

Rhys Jaggar, England
Where costs could undoubtedly be reduced is by placing appropriate maximum lengths of time for the presentation of evidence. Too many lawyers are paid by the hour, so there is no incentive for them to present evidence succinctly, appropriately and in an easily digestible form. If any changes are therefore to be made, they should be on the basis of a fixed fee for barristers for a particular case, with a performance bonus based on time taken to complete their presentations and examinations. This will require some external consultants to examine current legal practice, which will no doubt cause an almighty hoo-hah from highly paid, peacock-like performers wearing silk... but may well lead to an improvement in efficiency of a system well-overdue for a root-and-branch overhaul.
Rhys Jaggar, England

I'm amazed that the legal profession incomes have remained so high given the opportunities we have to reduce crime. When the legal profession have their numbers halved and their income halved, then we can be sure that the correct legal policies are being followed. It is not in the legal profession's interest to see a reduction in crime and conflict!
Martin Adams, UK

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