Fears raised over pandemic court backlog

Hundreds of victims of serious crimes are waiting for justice because the pandemic created a record backlog of Crown Court cases.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 1:17 pm
Record crown court backlog
Record crown court backlog

Ministry of Justice data shows there were 969 outstanding cases at Teesside Crown Court at the end of March – the highest number since comparable records were first published seven years ago.

They included 142 cases relating to alleged sex offences – a rise of 75 on the same period last year.

Between April last year and March, 1,435 cases were concluded – down from 1,712 the year before.

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Charities fear delays at courts could stop people reporting crime in future, while legal bodies fear they could even impact the outcome of a trial.

Law Society president Stephanie Boyce said: “Victims are waiting years for justice and sometimes give up on the system. Memories fade, meaning witnesses cannot give such strong evidence, which may make the difference between conviction and acquittal."

Rachel Almeida, assistant director of Victim Support, said: "Long delays undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and can deter victims from engaging in future. All possible steps must be taken to address the court backlog.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that, since April, the backlog of outstanding cases at crown courts had started to fall and added: "Dedicated staff and professionals kept justice moving during the pandemic and thanks to their efforts we are seeing positive results – outstanding cases are beginning to drop.

“We are investing hundreds of millions to further increase capacity and support victims.”