Government figures are being manipulated to suggest courts are under less strain than is actually the case, the Criminal Bar Association has claimed.
Chair of the CBA, Caroline Goodwin QC, said there is an increasing trend to list trials as mentions to 'avoid the trap of being a trial which is not reached’. Mentions are short pre-trial court appearances. In her weekly message to members, Goodwin said: 'For those of you in the know, that is a sin. This approach utterly undermines and devalues the purpose of these figures.'
Goodwin also said the word 'median' should be removed from the statistical data reported quarterly by the Ministry of Justice and replaced with 'true and accurate figures as to the timeliness of trials'. She said: 'No wonder the allocation of sitting days has been so farcical if the data relied on is skewed and out of date...Who is sanctioning the manipulation of trial listing so that as if by magic a trial is demoted to a mere mention?'.
A HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: 'These claims are completely untrue.'
Last November the government promised that 700 additional Crown court sitting days will be available before the end of the financial year. However, the CBA said this is 'simply not enough', adding that a 'tiny increase in Crown court sitting days is frankly derisory'.
According to the CBA, 700 extra days represents an increase of less than 1% over the course of a year. This follows a ‘15% cull' last spring when the annual budget was reduced from 97,400 court sitting days to 82,300.