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Appeals against conviction up 25%

THE NUMBER of people appealing against their convictions has risen by more than a quarter this year, taking the Court of Appeal towards 'crisis point', Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, said last night, writes Adam Sage.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor's annual dinner at the Guildhall in the City of London, he that said prisoners were waiting months for their appeals to be heard. The delays for people not in prison were up to 18 months. Judicial reviews of cases took 14 months to come to court and 'the present trend suggests it could be 19 months by January of next year'.

'I regard reducing the backlog in those two lists (appeals and judicial reviews) as a high priority,' he said. 'I earnestly hope that in the near future more judges can be appointed and we are striving to that end.' He also said judges should attempt to win public confidence by ensuring that their summings-up are fair, and by being more considerate towards those appearing in their courts.

Confidence in the judiciary had been 'shaken' by recent miscarriages of justice, Lord Justice Taylor said. 'One lesson emerges clearly - the need for trial judges - however strong the evidence appears to be and from whatever source - to be seen to leave issues of fact fairly to the jury.'

His comments follow criticism that some judges have come close to telling jurors to reach a guilty verdict in some high profile cases.

'I hope one benefit from these traumatic cases will be a greater vigilance both by trial judges and the Court of Appeal,' he said.

Lord Justice Taylor added that his decision to allow judges to sit on consultative committees with other people involved in the criminal justice system would help to improve the judicial image.

Dossier of cases, page 6