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Urgent action needed to eliminate chronic court backlog

A damning report from the Chief Inspectors of Police, Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS), Probation and Prisons has been released, revealing the impact of the pandemic on the system.

The joint report by the four HM Chief Inspectors highlights the impact of crown court delays on victims, witnesses and defendants, suggesting that urgent and significant action was needed to eliminate a chronic court backlog.

It stated that by the end of 2021, a quarter of cases had been waiting for a year or more to reach court. The number of cases waiting longer than a year has increased by more than 340% since March 2020. Trial effectiveness rates were deemed ‘not as good as before the pandemic, meaning that many cases are adjourned – thereby increasing the overall backlogs’.

The Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce said: “Decades of underfunding and cuts mean there simply aren’t enough judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers left to cover the huge backlog of cases. Too many courts have been closed and many of those left are neglected and crumbling.

“A traumatised victim can be left waiting years to see their assailant locked up, while others lose faith in the justice system altogether. An innocent defendant can find their life in limbo indefinitely while they wait to clear their name.

“Sustained investment is needed across the criminal justice system and, as the report points out, the plan must be coordinated for the system to recover, otherwise changes in one area will have a negative impact on another.

 

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