Backlog of criminal cases in Crown courts reaches record levels

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The backlog of criminal cases awaiting prosecution in Crown courts in England and Wales has reached an all-time high, official figures show.

There were about 60,692 cases outstanding, as of the end of June.

According to quarterly figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), this is an increase of 40% compared to the same period last year, when 43,217 cases were registered, and the highest level since the start of data recording in 2014.

About a fifth (19%) of cases have been outstanding for a year or more, up from 11% for the same period in 2020.

In the three months to June, 5,388 trials were registered in Crown courts – a 28% increase from the previous quarter, indicating that the volume of cases brought to court was returning to levels of before the pandemic.

The Justice Department report said: “The outstanding caseload continues to increase, although this growth has slowed and the latest management information from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals up to July 2021 indicates that outstanding volumes began to stabilize. “

Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said the figures “reflect that to date no significant progress has been made”, adding: “Some trials are being delayed until 2023, leaving the victims, witnesses and disillusioned defendants while waiting to access justice.

“With the easing of restrictions linked to the pandemic, the physical space of the courts is now less of an issue, but we are seeing that the ability to run criminal courts at full capacity is being affected by a lack of judges, court staff, prosecutors and defense lawyers. ”

Derek Sweeting QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said efforts to reduce wait times “were not working fast enough” and urged the Treasury to invest more in the justice system, adding: “Without a substantial reduction, to both from the backlog and from waiting times, the public will lose confidence in law and order.

Jo Sidhu QC, President of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “Investing not only in the courts, but also in prosecutors and advocates who keep our creaky criminal justice system from crumbling, is the only sustainable way to reduce this unacceptable backlog of cases and unnecessary delays in trials, otherwise the victims of crime will, of course, continue to feel forgotten in their painful wait for justice.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “It is unacceptable that many victims have to wait so long to seek justice.

“The pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on our ability to hold jury trials, but we have made great strides in the magistrates’ courts to reduce the number of outstanding cases.

“With great new courtrooms, the expansion of Nightingale Courts through 2022, and limitless sitting days in Crown Courts, we will restore the swift access to justice victims deserve.”

A case can be classified as pending for a number of reasons, including because the defense and prosecution are still preparing for a trial, or they had to be rescheduled for a witness to attend, and will do so. also reference to newly received business.

The news comes as measures to allow victims of rape and sexual violence to have their video of cross-examination recorded and broadcast during a trial – so that they do not have to deal with the traumatic experience of having to appear in court. in person – have been extended to more Crown courts. in London and Durham.


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