The latest quarterly Ministry of Justice official statistics were published on 28 March 2024.

Commenting on the data, Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

"It is disappointing that there is still no progress made on reducing the backlog in the Crown Court. The Government target remains to reduce the backlog down to 53,000 by the end of November, but this is looking vanishingly unlikely. 

"Further investment and support for the justice system is desperately needed. Whilst we acknowledge the money announced in the Government’s Spring Budget, this is no where near enough in order for the courts system to get back to working order.

"The Government should commit to sufficiently funding the legal system to ensure the guilty are convicted, the innocent are set free and most importantly the public are kept safe and have confidence that justice is being done."

Some of the key aspects of the statistics are set out below:

Criminal Court statistics

  • Disposals remained below receipts, so the outstanding Crown Court caseload increased 1% on the previous quarter to 67,573 at the end of Q4 2023.
  • The volume of outstanding cases in the Crown Court that had been open for a year or more rose to 18,045 – this represents 28% of outstanding cases – slightly below the series peak (29%).
  • The median waiting time for defendants dealt with in ‘for trial’ cases where a not guilty plea was entered was similar to the previous quarter, at 41 weeks. This remains well above pre-COVID levels (25.4 weeks in Q1 2020).
  • The guilty plea rate increased sharply following the immediate COVID-19 response and the suspension of jury trials at the Crown Court. More recently it has fallen back to pre-COVID levels as the volume of ‘not guilty plea’ cases being disposed of has increased. In Q4 2023 the guilty plea rate was 65%, unchanged on the previous quarter.
  • There were 3,266 defendants dealt with in Q4 2023 who entered a not guilty plea (e.g., went to trial) – this is an increase of 1% on the previous quarter and 22% higher than Q4 2022 reflecting the return to levels prior to the Criminal Bar Association industrial action and COVID.

Family statistics

  • For 2023 as a whole, neither the applicant nor the respondent were represented in 39% of private law cases, whilst both had legal representation in 19% of private law cases. Both percentages are unchanged from 2022.