Crime victims left waiting almost two years for justice amid court backlogs

·3-min read
The number of days that victims are having to wait from the time of offence to the completion of the trial is now the longest on trial - Michał Chodyra /iStockphoto
The number of days that victims are having to wait from the time of offence to the completion of the trial is now the longest on trial - Michał Chodyra /iStockphoto

Victims are having to wait nearly two years for justice, with cases now taking more than 700 days on average to be completed amid court backlogs, official figures show.

With a crown court backlog of nearly 60,000 cases, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data revealed that the number of days that victims are having to wait from the time of offence to the completion of the trial has risen to 708 days for the three months to September 2021, the longest on record.

That is nearly double the 368-day wait in 2020 and a 14 per cent rise on the 620 days in the previous quarter, according to the figures which cover all offences from burglaries to murder presented to crown court.

Delays for offences like rape and domestic abuse can be longer than two years amid a 50 per cent increase in backlogs during the pandemic. The MoJ data showed outstanding rape cases in crown court increased by 29 per cent to 1,336 in the three months to September.

Of these, victims in 241 cases have been waiting more than a year and 48 cases have been delayed over two years, more than treble the number in 2020.

Claire Waxman, the victims’ commissioner for London, said the backlogs remained “deeply worrying.”

These continued and lengthy delays mean that victims are facing long, agonising waits for trial and this will also mean longer waits for sentencing, delaying closure for many victims.”

The total crown court backlog fell slightly from 60,812 to 59,928 in the three months to September, which compared with 41,015 in the quarter before the pandemic. However, the trials backlog has increased as a proportion of the total.

Some victims face waits 'up to five years'

Jo Sidhu QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), said the figures were the “tip of the iceberg,” claiming that some victims of serious offences such as rape and domestic violence faced waits of up to five years.

“The Government is still moving far too slowly in clearing a near record backlog of cases of its own creation as a result of a court budget cut and closure campaign that pre-dated the pandemic,” said Mr Sidhu.

Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “Rising waiting times for cases getting to court undermine the confidence of victims and the public that criminal justice operates fairly in this country. The Government should be aiming to build a justice system that can offer every Crown Court case a trial date within six months of a first appearance at court.”

The figures come just days after Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, announced magistrates will be able to jail offenders for up to a year, double the current six months, to help reduce the backlog.

An MoJ spokesman said: “With super courtrooms, increased sentencing powers for magistrates and unlimited sitting days in Crown Courts this financial year, we will restore the swift access to justice that victims deserve.”

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