Jury trials cost 10 times JP hearings

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The Independent Online
CROWN COURT trials are 10 times more expensive than those in magistrates' courts, says the first report on the price of justice in England and Wales. On average, a magistrates' court trial costs pounds 1,700 against pounds 17,500 for one before a jury.

The figures, published by the Home Office yesterday, also show prison sentences imposed by magistrates' courts cost on average 20 times more than non-custodial ones, pounds 5,000 against pounds 250.

Paul Cavadino, director of policy at the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said: "Money which could be used to prevent crime and improve prison regimes is being used to expand the prison sentence to meet the increasingly profligate use of custodial sentences." The figures show 10,600 people were sent to prison in 1998, a 7 per cent increase from 1997.

Iincreasing numbers of women are being jailed.Twelve per cent of convicted women were jailed last year, a figure itself up 12 per cent from 1997.

Magistrates jailed nearly 40 per cent of all imprisoned, up 10 per cent on 1993. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, emphasised the 6 per cent increase in court convictions in England and Wales. "I welcome this improvement," he said. "I congratulate the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts and I look forward to continuing improvement."

The report also shows each defendant runs up costs that average pounds 2,700.