Backlog of cases at Winchester Crown Court grows

Winchester Crown Court saw its backlog of cases grow at the end of June, figures show.
Wednesday 5th October 2022 8:29 am
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Credit by Peter Byrne (PA Wire )

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Winchester Crown Court saw its backlog of cases grow at the end of June, figures show.

The Law Society of England and Wales warned trust in the criminal justice system is in "jeopardy" with victims of even the most serious crimes facing long waits to get their case before a court.

The latest figures came ahead of this week's vote by criminal barristers across the country on whether to end indefinite strike action – launched over issues around legal aid fees and conditions following a pay offer from the Government.

Ministry of Justice data shows there were 234 outstanding cases at Winchester Crown Court at the end of June.

That was up from 209 at the end of March, but a decrease from 308 at the same point in 2021.

Uncompleted case numbers are ​4% higher than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic – in June 2019, there were 226 cases outstanding at Winchester Crown Court.

Of the cases outstanding at the end of June, 57 (24%) related to alleged violent attacks and 30 (13%) were for sex offences, including two alleged rapes.

Across England and Wales, 59,700 cases were yet to be concluded at the end of June – up 2% from March, and a rise of nearly three-quarters compared to June 2019, when 34,500 were outstanding.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said: “Long waits for trial cause immense stress and misery for victims. Sadly, wait times for court are only part of the problem – many people have already waited years from reporting the crime to the police to their case reaching the courts.

“This a particular problem for victims of sexual violence our case workers are supporting victims who have been waiting upwards of five years to have their cases heard."

I. Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society, which represents solicitors, saidthe national backlog of criminal court cases has left victims and defendants facing "unacceptable delays".

“The criminal justice system has been devastated by years of underfunding and cuts and there are not enough judges, barristers and solicitors to cover all the cases," she added.

“Trust in the system is in real jeopardy and a system collapse would embolden criminals.

“The UK Government is falling way short of addressing the crisis in the criminal justice system. You cannot fix the problems in the system unless you fund all parts of it effectively."

Criminal barristers in England and Wales have been taking part in a continuous walkout after their row with the Government over fees intensified.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association are set to vote this week on whether to end strike action after being offered “a comprehensive package” including a 15% fee increase for new and existing cases, with a decision due on Monday, October 10.

Mark Fenhalls KC, chairman of the Bar Council, which regulates barristers, welcomed news of the CBA ballot and added that the Government should commit to a funding package for the justice system which would see every serious case in the crown court offered a trial date within six months.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Restoring the swift access to justice victims deserve is our absolute priority and we are spending almost half a billion pounds to reduce wait times, as well as boosting funding for victim support to £460 million over the next three years.

“On top of this, the Government has deployed a range of measures – including unlimited sitting days, Nightingale courts and increasing magistrate sentencing powers – that has so far reduced the backlog in the Crown Court by over 2,000 from its pandemic-induced peak and seen magistrates cases return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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