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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Witnesses and victims withdraw from criminal trials in record numbers

Witnesses and victims withdraw from criminal trials in record numbers


Significant increase in failed criminal trials as record numbers of witnesses and victims pull out

There are reports of a significant increase in failed criminal trials because of record numbers of witnesses and victims pulling out.

It is the inevitable result of severe delays to criminal trials because of the mounting backlog, which has now reached more than 54,000 cases.

According to Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, the number of victims withdrawing from trials has more than doubled since 2015.

Law Society president David Greene said the reports were “extremely concerning but, unfortunately hardly surprising”.

He commented: “Justice is being delayed for victims, witnesses and defendants, who have proceedings hanging over them for months, if not years, with trials listed for 2022 and reportedly even 2023.”

He added that if action is not taken to increase capacity in a safe manner, case delays will continue to increase and more and more victims, witnesses and defendants will be denied access to justice.

“It is also vital that the government does not impose any artificial restriction on the number of judicial sitting days, as happened prior to the pandemic, causing a major part of the current backlog. If court rooms are available, the government must fund the judges to sit in them,” he added.