The key feature in the December edition of the Manchester Law Society publication relates to a recent report by Crest Advisory into the criminal justice system. Crest are the criminal justice research, strategy and communication organisation. The report suggests that the criminal justice system is at a ‘tipping point’. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020 the was an estimated backlog of 104,000 cases and that could almost double to 195,000 cases by 2024.
As Managing Partner of Burton Copeland and a member of Manchester Law Society’s Crown and Magistrates Committee Louise was asked to share her experience of how the pandemic had affected the function of the courts.
Louise said, “At the start of these unprecedented events the Courts were inevitably thrust into a degree of chaos. Cases were being adjourned to dates several weeks and months ahead and it was almost impossible to keep updated with listings, particularly in the Magistrates’ Court. In an attempt to deal with the adjourned cases the court then began bringing forward cases with little no notice to defendants and often no notice at all to the defence solicitors. Warrants were issued for defendants who had no knowledge of the new dates and the first knowledge of the case being listed would be that the defendant was in the cells at court.
The system has now settled and the courts are working reasonably well having adopted timed appointments, legal representatives being allowed to appear by CVP and cases being transferred to courts with spare capacity. However, there still remains a significant backlog and particularly for defendants awaiting trial in the Crown Court the delays for trial dates means that cases are being listed at the end of 21 and beginning of 22. When cases are already two years old at the time of charge another 12-18 months awaiting trial has to be addressed. This cannot be said to be in the interests of Justice for either the complainant or the defendant.
You can read the December Edition of the Messenger here or read the full Crest Advisory report “Why the Criminal Justice System is Facing an Existential Crisis” here