Labour calls for action to tackle courts backlog

Labour is calling for immediate action to tackle the backlog in courts as a landmark ruling paves the way for dangerous criminals to be released. Yesterday, courts ordered the release of a suspected drug dealer because the backlog in our courts system means that he will not face trial until 2021. 

The ruling by Judge Raynor states that the shortage of courtrooms to hear jury trials is “neither a good nor a sufficient cause” to keep defendants in custody beyond the time limit.

Cuts and court closures combined with the coronavirus pandemic have created a backlog of more than 41,000 crown court cases, which could take 10 years to clear according to Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. There are also half a million cases backed up in magistrates’ courts.

Half of all magistrates’ courts and eight out of 92 crown courts have closed since 2010. In 2019, the Government announced plans to close 77 more courts over the next seven years.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the government has set up 10 'nightingale courts' to help alleviate this backlog. These courts will hear non-custodial matters to free up space in other courts equipped to handle serious trials. However, critics say that this is not enough to alleviate the crisis. 

Speaking after visiting Isleworth Crown Court and ahead of a visit to Nottingham Crown Court today, David Lammy MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said: 

“The Tories’ disastrous sell-off of courts in England and Wales has created a situation where dangerous offenders could now be released onto the streets.

“This could threaten public safety as well as being another insult to the generation of victims who are being denied justice by endless delays.

“Tory vandalism has created chaos and permanently damaged the justice system. It’s unbelievable that the Government plans to close further courts.

“The Government must stop dithering over its roll out of Nightingale Courts. We urgently need more capacity to deal with the immediate crisis. The Conservatives must also promise to make no new plans to close more courts while in government.”