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Court Cases Backlog: The rest of the story

June 30, 2020 6:32 PM
By Kate Smith

Kate Smith, Lib Dem Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner writes

Kate Smith 2 (Kate Smith)

Cllr Kate Smith

Derbyshire's PCC Hardyal Dhindsa recently highlighted how slowly justice is moving in the county at the moment. But it's not just because of Coronavirus.

Even before the virus crisis, delays of up to 2 years in both Magistrates' and Crown Courts were common. "Hardyal's right, but only up to a point", says Kate - "Covid apart, court resourcing has fallen in real terms by 18 % over the last few years."

"It's a good idea to call for alternative premises", adds Kate. "But this would be a temporary measure, and he has missed an opportunity to call on the Government to invest in premises improvements and streamlining measures across the country."

According to the Institute for Government's latest report, backlogs will get worse before they get better. With case-complexity increasing as it has been, demands on the Courts will go up by 16 % by 2023-24, even without Coronavirus or the increases in charging likely to follow from the promised 20,000 more Police officers. All that Covid does to this is make backlogs more acute.

"Hardyal also fails to add that local Magistrates' Courts have closed over the last few decades, and that doesn't help", says Kate. "We used to be able to have local justice in Ilkeston and Matlock, for example - not any more."

The idea of titling extra premises "Nightingale Courts" is naïve, since most of the problems are not caused by Coronavirus. However, if such a title is used, Kate suggests the name of Mary Seacole. Seacole, a pioneering nurse of African Caribbean heritage, is less well-known than Florence Nightingale and honouring her name in this way would put right a longstanding injustice.