Performance of the criminal justice system

Can the organisations in the criminal justice system improve their performance? To answer this question, we audited the number of violent and property offences that entered, were dealt with by and left the criminal justice system between 1 October 2009 and 30 September 2010. In particular we investigated cases that left the system. We looked at whether the outflow was undesirable and, if so, what the causes and consequences of undesirable outflow were.

Conclusions

Undesirable outflow refers to cases that leave the criminal justice system not in conformity with legislation or regulations, resulting in inefficiency or inequality before the law. The criminal justice system consists of the organisations that together enforce the law: 

  • the police are responsible for detection; 
  • the Public Prosecution Service for prosecution; 
  • the courts, courts of appeal and Supreme Court for trials;
  • the Central Fine Collection Agency, the Custodial Institutions Agency, the Child Protection Boad, Halt and the Probation Service are responsible for the enforcement of penalties and measures.

Our findings indicate that shortcomings in the criminal justice system frustrate its optimal performance. We could not determine the precise extent of undesirable outflow from the criminal justice system because little quantitative information is available. We learnt from the interviews we held that a substantial number of cases undesirably leave the system, chiefly frequently occurring crime during the detection phase but also during the enforcement phase owing to the period of limitation on custodial sentences and fines.

In addition to finding that it is not known how many cases leave the criminal justice system undesirably, we found that the figures on comparable variables kept by the various parties in the system could differ significantly from each other and it was often not known how many cases were returned to the previous link in the chain. The police in particular could not provide reliable figures; figures on case levels, inflow and outflow were inconsistent. Without this information, it is difficult to take management measures. The information architecture is not tailored to the system.

Management

We found that management is not directed at optimising desired performance and current policy pays little attention to the prevention of undesirable performance. Incentives are sometimes contradictory. The policies and funding of the various parties, for example, can encourage behaviour that is not always conducive to the efficiency of the system as a whole. Weak management leads not only to inefficiency because cases leave the system after a great deal had been invested in them but also to inequality before the law because the police forces take different decisions on cases that, according to the rules, should be followed up.

Recommendations

The performance that the criminal justice system should deliver, the management measures necessary to achieve desired performance and prevent undesired performance and the organisation of the system (including information supply) are conditions to bridge the gap between policy and implementation. Now the Minister of Security and Justice is also responsible for the national police organisation, he has every opportunity to improve the situation. We therefore recommend that the minister:

  1. Develop policy for the criminal justice system as a whole in order to achieve desired and prevent undesired performance and effects. The policy should be consistent with that of the parties in the system.
  2. Develop an information strategy for the criminal justice system based on the principle that management should enable the achievement of desired performance and the prevention of undesired performance.
  3. Periodically inform the House of Representatives of desired and undesired performance in relation to available capacity at the parties concerned so that society knows what can reasonably be expected from and is achieved by the respective parties.

Response

The Minister of Security and Justice responded to our draft report on 23 January 2012. The Board of Regional Police Force Managers (Kbb) responded on 12 January 2012. 

The minister and the Kbb wrote that they largely agreed with our conclusions and recommendations. However, they did not make any new undertakings in their responses.

The minister provided a further response to the House of Representatives, however, by letter of 29 February 2012.

See also