Almost 2,000 face long waits for justice in London

Almost 2,000 criminal cases have been delayed for two years or more in London, new figures show.

By Will Grimond, Data Reporter

A legal professional holding a wig
Photo: RADAR

Almost 2,000 criminal cases have been delayed for two years or more in London, new figures show.

A legal charity has condemned the delays in criminal justice as “unacceptable”.

Criminal courts have faced mounting pressures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which saw trials put on hold during lockdowns.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 1,914 criminal cases had been unresolved for two years or more in London as of March 2023.

For comparison, 1,423 cases had been outstanding for two years or longer at the same point in 2022, while 143 had done so as of March 2019.

The most common type of offence involving a long wait was for drug offences, which was responsible for 467 cases.

“The figures show that more people – the accused, victims, defendants and their families – are waiting to see justice and are left to cope with unresolved cases hanging over them for years,” said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.

“We’ve been saying these delays are unacceptable, but it is only getting worse. The government needs to act now and invest in a properly functioning system if we are to tackle the court delays.”

Across England and Wales there were more than 62,000 incomplete cases – including 15,242 in London.

Ms Shuja added it was unlikely the Government would hit its “meagre” target of reducing this backlog to 53,000 by March 2025.

She urged for investment across the justice system to cut down the number of long waits.

In London, the median waiting time across unresolved cases was 247 days.

Nationally, 6,073 cases were facing two-year delays – a significant rise from 3,949 the year before, and nearly ten times the 626 as of March 2019.

In June, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee warned key court reforms – aimed at speeding up the time cases can be processed – had been delayed significantly.

It warned these setbacks were undermining public confidence in the justice system.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We are doing all we can to reduce the outstanding caseload in the Crown Court, including lifting the cap on the number of days courts can sit and recruiting more judges to help restore the swift access to justice victims deserve.”

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