QC condemns long criminal prosecution delay

“The Government has failed the Criminal Justice System for long enough” says QC Barrister

In response to the recent reports of criminal prosecution delays reaching 708 days, Michelle Heeley QC, Leader of the Midlands Circuit and Barrister at No5 Barristers’ Chambers commented:

“I am appalled at the recent figures of criminal prosecution delays, but I’m not surprised. The statistics published by the Minister of Justice stating that the average waiting time to deal with criminal cases rising 16% from 620 days to 708 can only be described in one way. As an unforgivable failing to victims, defendants, legal professionals, as well as the British public.

“The impact this delay has is monumental. During this waiting period, there is significant pressure on all parties. Victims are left without justice and witnesses memories begin to fade, which can have serious repercussions when they are called to testify.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue, practitioners have been warning the Government about the growing delay and the ever-increasing crown court backlog for several years. When Judge sitting days were cut in 2018, the backlog stood at 39,000 cases, but the figures now stand at over 60,000. Our warnings have been ignored and now we are seeing the repercussions.

“There is no short-term solution for this problem. Although Nightingale Courts and Super Courts have been opened to help tackle the backlog, we are past the point of no return. It’s of no surprise that many criminal barristers are choosing to leave the bar. Criminal barristers are paid incredibly poorly for the incredibly time-consuming work that they do, and the pressure placed on them by these ever-growing numbers is a contributing factor to our dwindling numbers.

“It is pivotal that the Government takes the advice laid out in Christopher Bellamy’s recent report concerning the lack of judges and the low rates of pay for criminal barristers if they truly want to fulfill their promise of a fully functional criminal justice system.”



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