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Criminal court backlog hits record high of almost 65,000 cases

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(29 September 2023)

The Crown court backlog has reached a record high, according to alarming new data released by the Ministry of Justice.

Criminal court statistics for April to June, published yesterday, reveal 64,709 outstanding cases in the Crown court – a 4% increase on the previous quarter and the highest backlog on record. Cases that have been outstanding for a year or more account for 28% of the backlog.

The data also shows 1,909 trials were ineffective between April and June, compared to 857 between October and December – when, the Criminal Bar Association said, the courts were fully open before sitting days were cut.

Law Society president Lubna Shuja said the delays faced by victims and defendants are unacceptable.

‘The entire criminal justice system is fracturing. There are crumbling courts, overwhelmed prisons and a chronic shortage of lawyers and judges. What this means is that delays are compounded. People seeking justice – victims, witnesses, and defendants – are left in limbo waiting longer and longer to see it happen.

‘This is the result of a lack of investment by the government across the entire justice system. More needs to be done if the government is to meet even its own unambitious target of reducing the Crown court backlog to 53,000 by March 2025.’

Criminal Bar Association chair Tana Adkin KC said: ‘Criminal barristers have specialist training to prosecute and defend the most serious and sensitive cases in court and want to work with government to maintain and improve the quality of justice delivered, so in return government must do its part in getting the resources to where they are needed.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘People who break the law must face justice, and more criminal cases are now reaching the Crown court than at any point over the last two years. We are letting our courts run at full throttle – lifting the cap on the number of days courts can sit for a third year, recruiting more judges, and investing more in our courts, including in magistrates’ courts where more than 90% of criminal cases are dealt with.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)