Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“This latest increase in the backlog of cases in our Crown and Magistrates’ courts is shameful, but not surprising, bearing in mind the lack of investment in the justice system over many years. When cases stack up this much, the impact on the public is a long wait, more concern and anxiety around the outcome of their cases, with victims and witnesses on both sides disengaging - even from a strong case - reducing the likelihood of a correct verdict. All parties can have a growing sense of injustice that something that directly affects them has been relegated to the bottom of the pile.
“Regrettably, the government knew what the consequences of its drastic cuts could be when, for example, it closed 162 magistrates’ courts out of 323 between 2010-2019 and when it reduced the number of Crown Courts sitting days by 16 % in the last couple of years, despite reported crime increasing. While it is easy to use Covid-19 as the scapegoat for the situation we are now in, the truth is that the pandemic has merely given our once-revered justice system an extra push along the dangerous slope it was already heading down, after years of neglect.
“This backlog needs to be tackled urgently, but in a way that does not undermine the credibility of justice offered by our time-tested jury system, with judgment delivered in serious cases by members of the public with a collective wealth of life experience. We need to see the government opening up more courts, allowing more judges to sit and expanding the buildings in which cases can be heard, using part-time judges and technology effectively before we even discuss tampering with constitutional and established methods of determining justice in serious criminal cases. Until the government invests in this way the criminal cases backlogs will remain.”