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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 16:07 GMT
Court staff face rap over errors
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Some court officials are to face action after the inquiry
A number of staff at Leeds magistrates' court are to face action after thousands of defendants and their offences were not recorded properly.

A Ministry of Justice inquiry was ordered last November into the warrant process after fears hundreds of criminals had avoided justice.

A Justice department said the inquiry "painted a lamentable picture of historic failure".

One offender may have been jailed twice for the same offence.

Officials feared many offenders did not attend or have their cases followed up.

Inspectors found a catalogue of blunders at the court offices including warrants being withdrawn for 555 defendants representing 1,709 offences - many of which were low-level minor driving offences.

Our concern would be that people will be scapegoated for what we understand is a systems failure
Union spokesman

But 67 defendants also had the record of their convictions withdrawn in relation to a total of 115 recordable offences which need to be placed on the Police National Computer (PNC).

In the report the inspection team said "it remains unacceptable" that the court's records do not have an accurane result for 3,260 offences and other matters relating to 2,206 defendants.

Offences where the results have been missing include wounding with intent, grievous bodily harm, possessing ammunition, escape from custody, burglary, robbery, affray and possessing class A drugs.

Judicial report

But a Public Commercial Services Union spokesman said the issue was a systems failure and warned against making staff scapegoats.

The union spokesman added: "It needs to be put in the context of job losses throughout the court service, totalling 1,700.

"Also, this along with pay, has had a knock-on effect on staff morale and particularly high staff turnover, particularly in Leeds.

"Our concern would be that people will be scapegoated for what we understand is a systems failure."

In Tuesday's statement, the ministry said: "As a result of these investigations disciplinary action has been initiated against members of staff at Leeds Magistrates' court who are implicated in these matters and in respect of those covered by a separate judicial report to the Lord Chief Justice.

"The Inspectorates' report paints a lamentable picture of the historic failure at Leeds Magistrates' Court properly to record the results of court adjudication, dating back to 1980 with the vast majority occurring between 2001 and 2004."



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Senior legal figures will investigate the claims



SEE ALSO
Inquiry into court's 'bungling'
29 Nov 07 |  West Yorkshire

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