Today’s criminal court statistics have sparked alarm among lawyers, who have described ‘appalling’ crime detection rates and a growing backlog of cases.
The quarterly criminal court statistics for April to June 2019 show that the backlog of criminal cases has crept up while court workload has fallen.
According to Ministry of Justice figures, the number of Crown court receipts and disposals have fallen steadily over the past three years. While receipts rose slightly this quarter (3%) compared to last year, disposals fell by 4% to 25,720.
The MoJ report says: ‘The overall downward trend in the Crown court workload over the past three years is in line with year-on-year decreases in the number of individuals dealt with in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.
‘There has been a general decrease in the number of offences for which the police issue a charges/summons over the past three years along with a fall in the number of indictable offences being dealt with at the magistrates’ court which has a direct impact on the flow of cases into the Crown court.’
Meanwhile, the number of outstanding Crown court cases has increased by 1% to 32,708 compared to the previous quarter, breaking a four-year trend.
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society, said: ‘These statistics come as no surprise: our criminal justice system is at breaking point. It simply does not have the resources to function effectively.
‘The future integrity of our justice system depends on the whole system working effectively and efficiently. This means we need additional funding across the board: for police and prosecutors, but also for courts and the defence.’
Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘On the face of it prosecutions are down, many courts are sitting empty and now these latest figures suggest that trials coming to Magistrates’ courts and Crown courts are at their lowest levels since records began.
‘This would be good news if not for the fact, as the police have recently admitted, crime detection rates are appalling. Statistics show that crime is actually rising and there is a backlog of court cases piling up.’
Chair of the Criminal Bar Association Caroline Goodwin QC said: ‘The draconian 15% cut to Crown court sitting days for 2019/20 needs to be reversed as the MoJ’s own latest figures for April to June this year now confirm a quarter on quarter increase in the criminal case backlog.
‘The inflexibility surrounding reduced sitting days has to end. Substantial investment is needed to tackle court closures, falling prosecutions and the rise in violent crime.’