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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 12:51 GMT
Inquiry into court's 'bungling'
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An inquiry into the court process has been launched
An inquiry has been launched after claims hundreds of defendants escaped justice during a catalogue of blunders at Leeds Magistrates' Court.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw launched the inquiry amid claims many offenders simply did not attend court or have their cases followed up.

Mr Straw has charged senior legal figures with investigating Leeds Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland's claims.

The Ministry of Justice said a senior judge would also investigate the cases.

Mr Straw said he had asked HM Chief Inspector of Courts Administration to work with the Chief Inspectors for the Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service to conduct "a thorough inspection".

Historical process

In a written ministerial statement to MPs, Mr Straw said two issues of concern had arisen at the court.

These concerned the recording of outcomes of cases between 1997 and 2003 and subsequently in the case of recordable offences, updating the Police National Computer, a process known as "resulting".

The other is centred on the process used for withdrawing warrants issued by the court for the arrest of defendants who fail to appear, he added.

Mr Straw said: "The investigations will verify the number of cases involved, the breakdown of offences and the position regarding the Police National Computer."

Mr Straw said that a "continuing issue" was identified at Leeds following a national review "about the effectiveness of processes for resulting the 2.2 million cases dealt with in the magistrates' court each year."

He continued: "As part of the work that court staff were undertaking to look at these issues, this month they identified a further problem with an historical process dating back to 2003 to withdraw old Failure to Appear warrants which had been agreed by the court, the CPS and the police.

"Although the withdrawal of warrants is entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, the process used in Leeds needs to be investigated."

Senior legal figures will investigate the claims

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