Record numbers waiting years for trial

New figures published today (14 December) on the Crown Court backlogs show they have grown over the last quarter to 66,547, an increase of 3% on the previous quarter and the highest Crown Court outstanding caseload on record.

The gap between spiralling numbers waiting in the queue and the UK government’s own unambitious target of reducing the Crown Court backlog to 53,000 by March 2025 continues to widen.

Outstanding cases, where individuals have been remanded in custody for more than two years, have also risen to 1,063. This is a 932% increase in three years* – a record-breaking peak. Also:

  • 352,945 outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts, up 3% on the previous quarter
  • 17,790 of Crown Court cases had been outstanding for a year or more

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said: “The criminal justice system is withering at the root due to decades of underinvestment and the government’s failure to tackle the crisis.

“Delays in the courts are being compounded by a chronic shortage of lawyers and judges, overrun prisons and courts in disrepair. The increase in the number of people on remand for long periods awaiting trial is extremely concerning.

“Criminal defence solicitors are crucial to help tackle the huge backlogs in our courts, but they are becoming more and more scarce as the work is not financially viable. The existing lack of court staff overall is exacerbating the crisis.

”The fundamental right to access to justice is at stake without urgent investment into criminal justice.”

Notes to Editors

See the figures here – Criminal court statistics quarterly: July – September 2023

*In Q3 2023, 103 outstanding cases were trials in which the defendant was remanded in custody for over two years.

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