Responding to the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report Reducing the Backlog in the Criminal Courts, Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

The alarming figures set out in the NAO report show that the criminal justice system is at breaking point. The report confirms what the Bar Council and other organisations have been saying; people are having to wait much longer for their cases to be heard, there is no meaningful data to support proper recovery and no assessment has been made to understand the impact these delays and the move to remote hearings has had on different groups.

“The report also highlights that most of these problems are due to many years of cuts and insufficient funding.

“Ahead of next week’s Spending Review, the Bar Council is calling for spending to be increased by an extra 22 pence per person to tackle the enormous backlog and allow the Government to meet its bold ambitions around law and order whilst supporting victims of crime and reducing delays.”


Notes to editors:

The National Audit Office report published today highlights the Crown Court backlog as likely to remain a “pervasive issue beyond 2024” that will “severely affecting victims, witnesses and defendants”.

The NAO report has identified a 302% increase in the number of cases waiting longer than a year in the Crown Court, there are 60,692 cases in the Crown Court backlog, and there has been a 48% increase in the Crown Court backlog between March 2020 and June 2021.

The report also acknowledges the huge efforts undertaken by the legal system to respond to the covid pandemic; in the year up to 30 June 2021, the criminal courts dealt with 1.24 million cases and introduced extensive changes to ensure the courts continued to function in a way that was safe for judges, court staff and service users.

The NAO report states: “…if sustainable recovery in criminal courts is to be effective, the Ministry will need to improve its leadership of the system, including by agreeing clear, shared objectives for recovery and significantly improving the quality of its data. Without this, there is a risk that further investment will not support long-term value for money, ensure timely access to justice, or improve the experiences of victims, witnesses and defendants.”