Criminal justice

Thousands of victims and defendants in long wait for justice

The time taken for criminal cases to be resolved continues to increase leaving victims, witnesses and defendants facing long delays to access justice.

Official criminal court statistics for July to September last year released today (20 January) show that the time from offence to completion at the Crown Court continues to rise.*

Overall, there were 59,928 outstanding cases in the Crown Court and 349,277 outstanding in the magistrates’ courts at the end of September 2021.

And there are a record proportion of those Crown Court cases – 13,202, representing 23% of the outstanding caseload – outstanding for a year or more.**

“Victims, witnesses and defendants are waiting too long to get the justice they deserve,” said Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“The lengthy delays in trials coming to court mean a traumatised victim can be left waiting years to see their assailant locked up, while an innocent defendant can find their life in limbo while they wait to clear their name.

“Investment in the criminal justice system is needed now, starting with the immediate implementation of the 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates recommended in Sir Christopher Bellamy’s Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid.

“If this does not happen, we fear that our members will leave the market at ever faster rates, which will seriously compromise the government’s ability to clear the huge backlog in the criminal courts and ensure timely justice for victims, witnesses and defendants.

“Sir Christopher’s evidence to the Justice Select Committee this week reflected our concerns about improving how the criminal justice system functions as a whole, making sure courts are fit for purpose and dealing with listing issues.

“The Crown Court backlog is down 1% on the previous quarter which demonstrates the slow rate of progress in tackling it.”

Notes to editors

• See the official statistics

Read Sir Christopher’s report

• *The time from offence to completion at the Crown Court continued to rise (11%) with median estimates up from 406 days in Q2 2021 to 449 days in Q3 2021.

• ** At the end of Q3 2021 there were 13,202 outstanding cases that had been outstanding for a year or more. This represents 23% of the outstanding caseload and has increased sharply across the COVID period – from 15% in Q3 2020 to 23% in Q3 2021. This is up on the previous quarter (19% in Q2 2021) and is the highest proportion seen across the series (2014-2021).

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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