Responding to the news that the Ministry of Justice is to remove the limit on the number of sitting days in the Crown Courts in order to tackle the backlog, Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, said:
“This is a welcome announcement and a cause we’ve been campaigning for, publicly and in discussions with the Ministry of Justice, since 2019 when we opposed the government’s decision to cut sitting days. The criminal justice system has been paying the price ever since, with the backlog of cases in the Crown Courts mounting. Victims, witnesses and defendants should not have to endure long delays before their cases reach court.
“Whilst this is a positive step towards tackling the backlog, as are the expected additional sitting days in civil jurisdictions, it will only prove effective if it is matched by sufficient court staff and resources to support the anticipated rise in cases going through the Crown Court. It will require that the existing court estate is used to its maximum capacity together with the continued and increased use of Nightingale courts. It must be accompanied by a long-term strategy, not confined to the pandemic period. This is the right decision and further recognition from the government that more needs to be done to tackle chronic problems in our criminal justice system.”