Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 14:38 UK

Top judge 'to restore confidence'

Lord Judge
Lord Judge became Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales a year ago

The Lord Chief Justice has said public confidence in the justice system will be "undermined" if prosecutions are abandoned because they cost too much.

The Crown Prosecution Service has proposed guidelines aimed at balancing cost with the seriousness of a crime.

Lord Judge, who is marking his first anniversary in the role, said he had not yet studied the new guidance.

But he said it was a "cause for concern" if people were not prosecuted because the case could not be afforded.

Lord Judge, who is the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said: "I'm not sure I'm content about that. Ultimately, that undermines public confidence in the administration of criminal justice."

'Confidence damaged'

Speaking at a wide-ranging press conference, he said: "The criminal justice system affects every single person in the country.

"It affects them as victims, as witnesses, as defendants, and, if I read my newspapers correctly, public confidence has been damaged or reduced."

Lord Judge has recently made a number of Court of Appeal judgments stressing the need for tough deterrent sentences for a number of crimes, such as house burglaries, gun and knife crime.

Asked about which areas of concern he wished to tackle during his office, he said there was "quite a shopping list", adding: "I think my first ambition... is to increase or restore public confidence in the administration of criminal justice."

Commenting on the increasing use of out-of-court sanctions such as cautions, police warnings and fixed-penalty fines, he said apart from people of good character who made a "silly mistake" and infringed the law in a minor way, offenders should be taken to court.

Jury technology

Lord Judge also called for new research to ensure juries in the future benefited from technology to help them consider evidence and reach verdicts.

He said the jury system depended on people listening to other people speaking, but young people were now taught with the help of computers and screens.

"Orality is the essence of our jury system. We may say in 15 years' time we should do it differently. Evidence will be presented on screens, we'll give members of the jury their screens to take away," he said.

"The way our jury system currently operates I think will have to be reconsidered".

Lord Judge was also asked about so-called "super-injunctions", which prevent disclosure of the fact that a court injunction has been made.

It comes a week after an order temporarily stopped the Guardian reporting details of an MP's parliamentary question.

He said there were many occasions when such super-injunctions were "amply justified" but said he could not envisage a court ordering Parliament not to discuss a topic.

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