Luton Crown Court facing 'bulging' backlog due to coronavirus pandemic

Luton Crown Court is facing an increasing backlog of cases, figures show.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 7:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 7:32 pm

A Parliamentary report has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has left the courts system in “crisis”, with a backlog of cases that will take years to clear.

Ministry of Justice figures show Luton Crown Court had 797 outstanding cases at the end of December.

This represents an increase of 12.6% from the end of September and 35.8% at the end of 2019, when there were 587.

Luton Crown Court
Luton Crown Court

The figure also comes despite a temporary 'Nightingale' court based at Peterborough Cathedral handling some of Luton's backlog of cases.

The Lords Constitution Committee has urged the Government to set out urgent plans, including new funding, to stop public confidence in the justice system being undermined.

Across England and Wales, the number of outstanding crown court cases swelled to 56,827 in December, up 11% compared to September and 49% higher than the same point the previous year.

However, the number of concluded cases in December was close to pre-pandemic levels, as courts get closer to be able to clear the national backlog.

The figures also show that 229 cases were concluded at Luton Crown Court between October and December following a trial or sentencing hearing.

That was a rise of 0.4% on the 228 cases dealt with between July and September. Between October and December 2019, 282 cases were concluded.

Last month, the watchdog for the Crown Prosecution Service warned that the caseload for prosecutors nationally is increasing at an alarming rate and this could have “major consequences” for victims and witnesses.

Dame Vera Baird, the Victim's Commissioner, said victim hubs were under increasing pressure due to delays in the justice system.

She said: "They are carrying higher caseloads as victims remain in the justice system for longer.

"Hub staff are also having to work harder to persuade victims not to withdraw from supporting the prosecution as a result of delays."

A spokesman for the MoJ said: "We are spending £450 million to deliver speedier justice for victims and this is already having an impact – outstanding magistrates’ cases have fallen by 50,000 since last summer and crown court cases reached pre-Covid levels in December.

“More jury trials are being heard every week, with video hearings and new Nightingale courts boosting capacity while we invest record amounts in victim support.”