HC Deb 14 November 1984 vol 67 cc240-1W
Mr. Skeet

asked the Attorney-General what caused the delay in bringing offenders to trial in the cases of the petty sessional divisions of Chesterfield, Rotherham, Mansfield, St. Helens and Peterlee prior to the coal industry dispute in March; what is the position today; and what are the dates of the appointment of every new stipendiary to these benches, the number of cases tried by each since their appointment and the number of cases remaining to be tried in these areas.

Mr. Mellor

I have been asked to reply.

I understand from inquiries that have been made in the first three months of 1984 defendants pleading not guilty before these courts were normally tried within six to eight weeks of entering their plea. That waiting time was necessary to enable the prosecution and defence to prepare their case. Defendants pleading guilty in person were normally sentenced within three weeks or less.

The position with regard to guilty pleas at these courts remains unchanged. Mainly because of the extra business generated by the miners' dispute, the waiting time between a not guilty plea and trial is now approximately 12 weeks in Chesterfield and Mansfield; eight to 10 weeks at Rotherham; nine weeks at St. Helens and eight weeks at Peterlee.

Stipendiaries have sat at these courts at the following times:

Chesterfield — One from 3 to 12 October; two since 15 October
Rotherham — One since 3 September
Mansfield — One from 5 to 16 November
St. Helens — One on ten days between 10 October and 8 November; more dates arranged up to 12 December
Peterlee — One from 22 to 26 October.

Information is not readily available about the numbers of cases they have tried, hut, in view of the wide variation in the time needed to deal with individual cases, this would not in any event provide a reliable indication of the stipendiaries' usefulness in relieving pressure on the courts. We understand that the stipendiaries have not been confined to dealing with cases arising from the miners' dispute. The number of cases arising from the dispute which remained outstanding on 8 November at each of these courts is as follows:

Chesterfield 454
Rotherham 214
Mansfield 296
St. Helens 80
Peterlee 60