Backlog of cases at Aylesbury Crown Court grows ahead of potential strike action

New figures show hundreds of cases remain outstanding at the Aylesbury court
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New figures show backlog of cases is rising at Aylesbury Crown Court.

The Law Society of England and Wales warned trust in the criminal justice system is in "jeopardy" with victims of even the most serious crimes facing long waits to get their case before a court.

The latest figures came ahead of this week's vote by criminal barristers across the country on whether to end indefinite strike action – launched over issues around legal aid fees and conditions – following a pay offer from the Government.

Barristers have been striking indefinitely, photo by Peter Byrne PA ImagesBarristers have been striking indefinitely, photo by Peter Byrne PA Images
Barristers have been striking indefinitely, photo by Peter Byrne PA Images

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data shows there were 696 outstanding cases at Aylesbury Crown Court at the end of June.

That was up from 670 in March, and 672 at the same point in 2021.

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Uncompleted case numbers are ​more than double what they were prior to the pandemic – in June 2019, there were 327 cases outstanding in Aylesbury.

Of the outstanding cases, 172 (25%) related to alleged violent attacks and 96 (14%) were for sex offences, including 32 alleged rapes.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of Victim Support, said: “Long waits for trial cause immense stress and misery for victims. Sadly, wait times for court are only part of the problem – many people have already waited years from reporting the crime to the police to their case reaching the courts.

“This is a particular problem for victims of sexual violence – our case workers are supporting victims who have been waiting upwards of five years to have their cases heard."

Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society said backlog has left victims and defendants facing "unacceptable delays".

“The criminal justice system has been devastated by years of underfunding and cuts and there are not enough judges, barristers and solicitors to cover all the cases," she added.

“Trust in the system is in real jeopardy and a system collapse would embolden criminals.

“The UK Government is falling way short of addressing the crisis in the criminal justice system. You cannot fix the problems in the system unless you fund all parts of it effectively."

Criminal barristers in England and Wales have been taking part in a continuous walkout after their row with the Government over fees intensified.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association are set to vote this week on whether to end strike action after being offered “a comprehensive package” including a 15% fee increase for new and existing cases, with a decision due on Monday (10 October).

Mark Fenhalls KC, chairman of the Bar Council welcomed news of the CBA ballot.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “Restoring the swift access to justice victims deserve is our absolute priority and we are spending almost half a billion pounds to reduce wait times, as well as boosting funding for victim support to £460 million over the next three years.

“On top of this, the Government has deployed a range of measures – including unlimited sitting days, Nightingale courts and increasing magistrate sentencing powers – that has so far reduced the backlog in the Crown Court by over 2,000 from its pandemic-induced peak and seen magistrates cases return to pre-pandemic levels.”