Storey welcomes commitment to reduce court delays for serious offences

North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey.

DUP North Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Mervyn Storey has welcomed confirmation by the Justice Minister Naomi Long that she will introduce a Bill to the Assembly abolishing costly and time-consuming committal hearings for serious offences.

Responding to the development, which came in response to a question posed by the North Antrim MLA in the Assembly, Mr Storey said:

‘‘I welcome the Justice Minister’s announcement, which would allow serious crime cases to transfer to the Crown Court without a committal hearing.

“These hearings are currently used to test evidence and determine if a case should progress to trial. It is extremely rare for a case to be dismissed at this stage, yet the hearing requires court time, use of witnesses and adds additional cost and delay to the proceedings.

“In many incidences neither the defence nor the prosecution want to declare their hand or arguments at this stage.

“It is right therefore that we look at removing this stage, which can aid the process of delivering justice.

“Many victims have suggested that when cases move to the Crown Court there is much more focus on the victim and better communication.

“This has to be our collective aim. We need to put a victim-centred approach at the heart of the criminal justice system.’’

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