National Audit Office report makes for worrying reading


An NAO report published today has concluded that the Ministry of Justice’s ambition to reduce the record high Crown Court backlog of 67,573 cases to 53,000 by March 2025 is no longer achievable. The “Reducing the backlog in the Crown Court” report finds that the MoJ estimates there will be 64,000 Crown Court cases still in the backlog by March 2025.

In response, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for Criminal Justice, PCC Emily Spurrell and APCC Chair, PCC Donna Jones, said:

“The NAO’s report makes extremely worrying reading. That there are almost 68,000 trials waiting to be heard at Crown Court is simply unacceptable. These delays are not just an administrative backlog but have a terrible impact on those people caught up in the process - not least the victims of crime, but also witnesses and defendants.

“The report finds that 27% of the backlog cases have been waiting a year or more to be heard, and 6,523 cases have been waiting for two years or more. The longer the delay, the higher the risk that a case collapses, as victims and witnesses feel unable to wait any longer for justice. 

“According to the report, numbers held on remand in prison in 2023 was the highest in 50 years, with two thirds of them awaiting trial. We have seen just this week how the number of remand prisoners is contributing to severe prison capacity issues and, in turn, potentially policing and probation as resources are directed away from the frontline to deal with accommodating and monitoring suspects and offenders outside of the prison system.

“The criminal justice system is, in fact, several interlinked systems, and for the whole to work efficiently and effectively, each must do the same. This situation has gone on too long. The public can be sure that PCCs will, through their work with Local Criminal Justice Boards, push all parties to make urgent improvements so that victims, witnesses, defendants, and the wider public can have confidence in our criminal justice system.

“The £477 million of funding given in the 2021 Spending Review to support recovery across the criminal justice system is evidence the government has recognised for some time that the criminal justice system has been under great strain, but it is clear more needs to be done. Police and Crime Commissioners are therefore urging the Ministry of Justice to undertake a comprehensive organisational review as soon as possible.”


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