Police, solicitors and court staff are to have their organisational skills tested to the limit with an ambitious six week deadline to deal with all new magistrate cases at Coventry.

Every new case from May 15 at Coventry magistrates is to be heard within six weeks of the charge being made and if successful the scheme will be rolled out across the country.

The pilot will rely on the CPS working with the defendant's solicitors and judges taking a hard line against adjournments.

"The challenge is to dramatically reduce the time it takes to deal with trials in the magistrates court," said Chief Crown Prosecutor for the West Midlands, David Blundell. "The process has to be the CPS provide advance information to the defence - and if the defendant pleads not guilty they must work out key issues to establish how long the trial will require of the court's time."

The period between charge to end of trial is usually about ten weeks. The new system will mean each agency fine-tunes its performance.

"The court must give us a date within the six weeks and any prosecution inquiries will have to be completed and witnesses warned, all before the six week period is up," said Mr Blundell.

"It is a very ambitious target."

The need for better scheduling and dealing with delays comes as magistrates courts edge closer to the role traditionally played by Crown Courts, with greater powers to deal with more serious cases.

It also dovetails with the Home Office's intention to put victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system.

Mr Blundell said the scheme was a completely fresh approach to dealing with magistrates cases, and a chance to see just how quickly cases could be heard with everyone working to the same end - while at the same time ensuring that justice is seen to be done.

The scheme will put pressure on all CJS staff involved and no extra money has been allocated to the project.

It is thought that it will run for at least six months.

"Police are going to have to ensure they carry out a full investigation prior to charge," said Mr Blundell.

"There won't be the spare time to carry on investigating the case after the charge other than minor follow-up inquiries. The CPS will have to identify exactly what charges the defendant faces - it won't make sense to amend the charges later because the defence will ask for an adjournment."

If there is any expert evidence needed, those involved will also be looking for cooperation from the Legal Services Commission, to authorise requests by the defence to instruct experts, within 24 hours.

"The role of the district judge or magistrate will be very important - will they allow any of the parties to frustrate the aim of the pilot?"