Solicitors are doing more work but are not getting paid for it, the Law Society has said in response to new criminal court statistics. Law Society president David Greene said new government figures for July to September 2020 indicate that more cases are starting in the Crown court ‘yet spend has dropped’.
‘This means that our members are doing more work but are not getting paid for it, as trials are still not happening, so they cannot bill for work. The interim payment scheme is welcome; however, it does not go far enough to provide adequate relief. We invite the Ministry of Justice to consider our proposals to extend and improve this scheme.’
According to the latest MoJ data, the volume of outstanding Crown court cases increased by 19% on the previous quarter, and 44% compared with last year. In September, 412,093 cases were outstanding at the magistrates’ court and 50,918 at the Crown court.
In Q3 2020 there were 1,654 trials listed, a marked increase from 113 trials in Q2 2020, but well below Q3 2019, when 6,249 were listed. Trial vacations also continued to rise, up 3% on the previous quarter.
Greene urged the government to ensure it is making ‘maximum use of normal court hours and the existing court estate, quickly take up further building space and avoid any restrictions on judges sitting while there are court rooms (real, virtual or Nightingale) available’.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘The magistrates’ backlog continues to fall and the number of cases resolved in the Crown courts has trebled since April. To drive this recovery further we are investing £110m in a range of measures to boost capacity, including recruiting 1,600 new staff and shortly opening several more Nightingale courts.
‘These efforts will be bolstered by an extra £337m the government is spending next year to deliver swifter justice and support victims, while £76 million will further increase capacity in family courts and tribunals.’