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Almost 40 Per Cent of Courts Empty Despite Rising Crime


Between 25 per cent and 40 per cent of courts are empty, with the Ministry for Justice confirming that it had cut the number of sitting days for judges by 15 per cent.

This is a result of police solving fewer cases and a falling number going to trial, according to data seen by The Telegraph. The newspaper also revealed that the MoJ had opted against funding overflow court sessions to clear up a backlog in the court system, with there being 30,000 Crown Court and 288,000 Magistrates’ cases pending.

A senior judge in England and Wales, Lady Justice Macur,  wrote to the Bar Council in a letter seen by The Telegraph: “I confirm that there has been a reduction in the allocation of Crown Court sitting days from 97,400 in 2018/19 to 82,300 in 2019/20.”

Lady Justice Macur continued: “This figure was calculated by MoJ analysts as that necessary to maintain the number of outstanding criminal cases in the backlog at the same level and considering significantly reduced Crown Court receipts over the previous 12 months, and before that.

“The decision not to further reduce the backlog was a political decision.”

The decisions come despite rising crime in England and Wales, with the attempted murder rate almost doubling in a decade and homicides rising 14 per cent in the 12 months to January 2019, while knife crime hit its highest recorded level in eight years.

Senior barristers have claimed, according to The Telegraph, that the refusal to open more courts for processing cases is due to cost-saving efforts and to avoid prison overcrowding.

The moves have resulted in a two-tier justice system, where those remanded in custody are dealt with swiftly while other cases may not come to trial for years, denying victims’ justice.

Criminal barrister Jonathan Dunne said: “If you are in custody, you have to be tried within six months. If you are not tried within six months, you get released on bail. What politicians don’t want are stories about dangerous rapists being freed on bail because there is no court to try them.”

Build more prisons, clear the backlog and where necessary - deport, there, problem solved. Why do consecutive governments find this so hard to grasp?