Courts face huge backlog of cases due to pandemic

A crown court which deals with some of Wigan’s worst criminals is facing an increasing backlog of cases, figures show.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 10:09 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 10:12 am

Ministry of Justice figures show Manchester Crown Square had 1,274 outstanding cases at the end of December.

A Parliamentary report has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has left the courts system in England and Wales in “crisis”, with a backlog of cases that will take years to clear.

Ministry of Justice figures show that Manchester Crown Square Crown Court had 1,274 outstanding cases at the end of December: an increase of 8.2 per cent from the end of September and 40.2 per cent at the end of 2019, when there were 909.

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Manchester Crown Court

The Lords Constitution Committee has urged the Government to set out urgent plans, including new funding, to stop public confidence in the justice system being undermined.

Nationally the number of outstanding crown court cases swelled to 56,827 in December, up 11 per cent compared to September and 49 per cent higher than the same point the previous year.

But the number of concluded cases in December was close to pre-pandemic levels, as courts get closer to be able to clear the national backlog.

The figures also show that 412 cases were concluded at Manchester Crown Square Crown Court between October and December following a trial or sentencing hearing. That was a rise of 20.1 per cent on the 343 cases dealt with between July and September. Between October and December 2019, 442 cases were concluded.

Last month, the watchdog for the Crown Prosecution Service warned that the caseload for prosecutors nationally is increasing at an alarming rate and this could have “major consequences” for victims and witnesses.

Some lawyers say they are already seeing trials listed for 2023. Bar Council chairman Derek Sweeting QC said: “With an end to social distancing in sight, the Government needs to seize the opportunity to allow the courts to deal with as many cases as possible by investing in more court capacity, more court staff and adequate sitting days.”

An MoJ spokesman said: “We are spending £450m to deliver speedier justice for victims and this is already having an impact – outstanding magistrates’ cases have fallen by 50,000 since last summer and crown court cases reached pre-Covid levels in December. More jury trials are being heard every week, with video hearings and new Nightingale courts boosting capacity.”

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