Problem

Delay in administration of justice

Other Names:
Inordinate legal delay
Overloading of courts
Court delay
Time lag in legal provisions
Delays in judicial process
Nature:
The rate at which cases can be processed in courts is slow relative to the increase in the number of cases. This leads to the accumulation of a backlog of untried cases. Because of these delays, those accused who are imprisoned without the right of bail may spend much longer in gaol than the crimes with which they are accused warrant, even before the validity of the charge is clarified; and they may be innocent. Conversely, those guilty of the crimes with which they are accused, but who are allowed bail, may enjoy freedom for some time before justice can be administered. In addition, the existence of a backlog of cases may frustrate attempts to try each satisfactorily. Cases maybe prepared by inexperienced staff resulting in some injustices or more delays. Cases prepared too quickly may result in similar problems.
Incidence:
In France, 81% of jurisdictions require more than 12 months to handle civil cases. In the UK the average time taken to process indictable cases through magistrates' courts was 124 days in February 1989. In Italy, experts estimate 60% of the 33,500 men and women in prison have not been convicted of anything, they are merely awaiting trial. Cases in the Los Angeles court system may take up to 4 years to be tried. In a medium-sized city of the USA it was estimated in 1990 that in an average year, some 5,000 felony charges are filed. Even assuming 2 felonies per person, the local courts cannot handle more than 150 to 200 trials per year. There is thus no way of trying more than 5% of the felony cases.

In 1975 there were two judgements per year by the European Court of Human rights, compared to 100 in 1992, with the case load still increasing. Annual applications concerning cases exceeded 5,500 in 1992. With the average case taking over 5 years, the possibility of prompt judicial process is decreasing.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
15.02.1999 – 00:00 CET