Clearing record criminal court backlogs must be a priority for next government

Alarming new figures released today (13 June) show the backlog of cases in our criminal courts continue to grow leaving victims and defendants waiting years for justice.

At the end of April this year, there were 68,125 outstanding cases in the Crown Courts and 387,042 in the magistrates’ courts.

This compares to 60,760 Crown Court cases and 338,866 magistrates’ court cases in April 2023.

“It is alarming to see the criminal court backlogs continue to spiral,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson.

“It is unacceptable that victims, witnesses and defendants are having to wait so long, with their lives in limbo, to access justice.

“The criminal justice system is in crisis with huge backlogs of cases, crumbling courts and overcrowded prisons.

“There simply are not enough judges and lawyers to work on all the cases and we have heard concerning reports that court buildings are not being used to their full capacity.

“A recent report by the National Audit Office* (NAO) correctly highlighted the decline in lawyers working in the criminal defence profession which is due to a reduction in legal aid fees, increasing levels of stress and poor working conditions.

“It also rightly pointed to the dilapidated state of much of the court estate and the failure to deliver prisoners to court on time as factors which only add to the delays.

“Sustained investment across the criminal justice system must be a priority for the next UK government.”

Notes to editors

• See the statistics here

• * Read the NAO report here

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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