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David Vascott

News, Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Crown Court will continue to operate at maximum capacity

Crown Court will continue to operate at maximum capacity


For the third year in a row, the government will not cap judicial sitting times in an attempt to reduce backlog.

The Ministry of Justice announced the decision on 11 August. In a press release it said:

The decision to continue not to cap judicial ‘sitting days’ will mean the Crown Court can hear the highest possible number of criminal cases this year.

Court buildings across the country will also benefit from £220 million for essential modernisation and repair work across the next two years, meaning annual investment will increase to £120 million by March 2025 - to minimise disruptions caused by old buildings.

These improvements will maintain the heritage of the estate while ensuring it is equipped with the latest technology to deliver modern justice, as well as improving accessibility for all court users.

The government is also extending a separate capacity boost first announced in December to allow the Immigration and Asylum Tribunals to work through asylum appeals as quickly as possible and remove unnecessary delays while cases are considered.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, said: “This government knows victims want to see justice served as quickly as possible and so we are making sure Crown Court judges can hear as many cases as possible this year. We have a world leading justice system and a legal sector that is a cornerstone of our economy, and we should have modern, fit for the future court buildings that reflect these high standards.”

Commenting on the government’s decision, Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society, said:

“The measures announced by the Lord Chancellor are a small step in the right direction to tackle the backlogs. We have long highlighted the need to invest in our crumbling courtrooms and maximise the number of days judges can sit.

“However much more needs to be done. The latest figures show that the backlogs of outstanding cases in the magistrates’ court and Crown Court continue to get worse. Victims and defendants are facing unacceptable delays with years spent in limbo as they wait for justice.

“The courts have been operating at well below maximum.  Far too many courtrooms are sitting empty every single day.

“As well as making sure that courts are fit for purpose and available for judges to sit in, there needs to be urgent investment to tackle the chronic lack of personnel. Ensuring there are enough judges, court staff and lawyers to do the work must be a priority.”