Labour Calls For Urgent Action To Tackle "Horrendous" Delays To Court Cases
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy has urged ministers to introduce temporary courts and cut the size of juries in order to tackle a growing backlog of unheard court cases.
Severe delays to cases being heard, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, have stopped them happening "in a timely manner" and resulted in a drop in convictions, Lammy told Sky News on Monday morning.
“Memories start to fade, evidence disappears and you don’t get successful prosecutions... Justice delayed is justice denied on the whole and that’s what’s happening across the UK," he said.
Figures published earlier this year showed the number of cases waiting to be heard in the Crown Court had reached a record 54,000 due to court proceedings being cancelled and delayed.
Several criminal watchdogs have warned that the impact on the criminal justice system will be long lasting, with some crimes which happened last year not set to be put before a jury until 2022.
Lammy was echoing warnings from leading justice figures like Justin Russell, the Chief Inspector of Probation, who in January warned that delays made prosecutions more difficult.
"Some will withdraw support for prosecutions because they have lost faith in the process," he said.
"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".
Lammy this morning said: "People continue to be robbed, people continue to be assaulted, people continue to experience fraud. And in all of those areas, the conviction rate is down.
"In fact, it’s the lowest it’s been in the last decade.
"If you’re a victim of crime, people are waiting now two or three years until their case is brought forward so. It’s a horrendous situation and it’s the worst it’s been for a very long time indeed".
Labour has called on the government increase the number of court cases taking place by introducing temporary courts (or "nightingale courts"), reducing juries from twelve to seven and increasing the number of days in the calendar on which courts sit.
"We just haven’t seen that action and victims of crime are suffering," Lammy said.
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