Newly revealed figures cast light on a ‘devastating’ backlog of outstanding court cases, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has said.
According to data obtained by the CBA from the Ministry of Justice, thousands of cases at Crown court centres were yet to be disposed of or were still open on 31 March 2019.
At Snaresbrook Crown Court, for example, some 1,106 cases were outstanding, including 213 violence cases, 55 sexual cases, 60 robbery cases and 87 theft offences.
Meanwhile at Isleworth Crown Court 830 cases were outstanding, including 140 violence cases, 39 sexual offences and 31 robbery cases.
In her weekly message to members, chair of the CBA Caroline Goodwin QC said: ‘Those in charge of this farce should look at the devastating consequences that are easily quantifiable: complainants waiting longer… witnesses who have arranged days away from work inconvenienced, counsel left unable to recover the lost court days…the stress of proceedings eating into a victim or soon to be proved innocent defendant’s daily life.’
Goodwin blamed the backlog on an ‘iron fist’ government policy to ‘save money no matter what the cost or consequences’ and attacked the reduction in court sitting days, which have been cut from 97,400 in 2018/19 to 82,300 in 2019/20. She cited a trial listed for last Friday which has been given a relisting date for summer 2020.
She said: ‘We have a backlog of cases, listing dates for trials are being put further and further back and yet courtrooms are sat empty. It is a crisis. Crime is on the rise. And I want to be really clear about this, it has absolutely nothing to do with the judges, they are as much a pawn in this situation as anyone.'
Her comments come after the latest snapshot of Crown courts shows that 130 out of 453 available criminal court rooms today are not sitting.
A HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: 'The number of cases dealt with in the Crown court is at the lowest since 2000 and waiting times are at their shortest since 2014. Sitting days are based on the number of cases we expect the court to hear and will be reviewed throughout the year.
'This approach has allowed us to half the number of outstanding cases in England and Wales over the last four years.'