‘Scant progress in tackling huge court backlogs’ says Law Society

Statistics released yesterday have shown the lack of progress made in tackling the huge criminal court backlogs, says the Law Society of England and Wales.

These delays and backlogs in the criminal courts are having an impact on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse claims, some of which are involving children as victims of the latter.

Law Society of England and Wales President, Nick Emmerson, said:

“It is extremely worrying to see the huge backlogs in our criminal courts continue to rise, which is leading to unacceptable delays for victims, witnesses and defendants.

The number of outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts is almost 30,000 higher than it was a year ago.

While the Crown Court backlog has reduced slightly month-on-month to 65,077 it is still more than 3,500 higher than last year and far above the UK government’s target of reducing it to 53,000 by March 2025.”

In November 2023 there were 370,090 outstanding cases in the magistrates’ court, up from 340,102 in November 2022. In the Crown Court the backlog stood at 65,077 in November 2023, compared to 61,526 in November 2022. See the full list of stats here.

Nick Emmerson, added:

“Decades of cuts and underinvestment in our criminal justice system has led us to this crisis where there aren’t enough judges, lawyers and court staff to deal with the huge volume of work. Only sustained investment across the system can replenish it and ensure timely access to justice for victims and defendants.”

Just this week, Today’s Family Lawyer shared the views of the NSPCC with regards to the sexual abuse trial delays.

In that news story, Clare Kelly, Associate Head of Policy and Policy Affairs at the NSPCC, said:

“Going through the criminal justice system can be a painful process for children who have experienced abuse. This can be made worse by consistent delays which leave children in limbo, without access to support designed for them to support their recovery.

Year on year we see court waiting times increase as the courts continue to battle a backlog of child sexual abuse cases. This has been a problem well before the pandemic but has been exacerbated by various lockdowns and court closures over the last five years.”

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