Criminal courts provide a forum for conducting prosecutions with a guilty plea or a trial. Since queues are used as the basis for rationing scarce court facilities delays are inevitable, however courts are invariably criticised as being inefficient as a consequence. This focus on court delay defined as the time elapsing between the listing of the case in the court list and its final disposition is misleading. Rather, attention should be drawn to the considerably longer period between the initiation of proceedings and the conclusion of the case. In the case of defendants not granted bail, this pre-trial delay confers both costs and benefits on society and this observation can be used to ascertain socially optimal pre-trial waits.
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