Inspectors of probation, police, prisons and the Crown Prosecution Service have reported an unprecedented increase in court cases.
During the pandemic, cases have been piling up with inmates locked up most of the day due to coronavirus and disruption to services for young offenders. Inspectors warned that the crisis will have a “severe impact” on victims and the delays in tackling the “chronic backlog of cases will further worsen the situation.
The four chief inspectors, who give evidence to the House of Commons` justice committee highlighted the need to fund Covid-stricken courts, calling on the government to provide additional funding and direction to agencies.
“Delays mean victims must wait longer for cases to be heard; some will withdraw support for prosecutions because they have lost faith in the process,” said Justin Russell, the chief inspector of probation, speaking on behalf all four inspectors.
“Witnesses will find it difficult to recall events that took place many months ago, and prosecutors waste significant periods of time preparing for cases that do not go ahead.”
Last year, the number of ongoing court cases was 44 per cent higher in December compared with February. According to the most recent figures, more than 53,000 cases are waiting to come before crown courts, with some scheduled for 2022.
A government spokesperson said the chief inspectors had recognised the swift and unprecedented work that had kept the justice system moving.
“These efforts have allowed us to rapidly increase the use of video technology, establish 36 ‘Nightingale’ courtrooms and prioritise urgent cases to protect the public from dangerous criminals, while we were one of the first countries in the world to resume jury trials,” the spokesperson said.