People in limbo as criminal court delays worsen

New data released today shows the number of open cases in the magistrates’ courts continue to pile up, the Law Society of England and Wales has said.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) management information reveals that a further 13,420 cases were added to the backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court from the last quarter.

Compared to the same time in the previous year, the open caseload in the Magistrates’ Court has increased by 10.4%, standing at 379,380 by the end of 2023.

Crown Court outstanding caseloads show a year-on-year increase of 7%, from 61,092 to 65,248.

President of the Law Society Nick Emmerson said: “It is clear that the government aim of reducing the Crown Court backlog to 53,000 by March 2025 is wishful thinking.

“Too many are joining the towering backlog of victims, defendants and their families who are waiting in limbo for justice. Our chronically underfunded and overwhelmed criminal justice system cannot meet the demand.

“Urgent investment into all parts of criminal justice is needed to fix this, including criminal legal aid. Defence solicitors are an integral part of tackling the courts backlog.

“It is the public who will lose out in custody suites and courtrooms across the country unless the government takes immediate action.”

Notes to editors

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