The Law Society has called on the government to make “sustained investment” in the UK’s court system after new data showed the case backlog has gotten worse over the previous quarter.
The backlog of cases waiting to be heard in the England and Wales Crown Courts has increased from 58,540 in April to 58,973 in June, HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) statistics show.
The addition of 433 new cases to the country’s Crown Court backlogs comes after the backlog had begun to fall over the first three months of 2022 after surging to record highs during Covid-19.
The statistics show the court backlog had already begun to worsen before barristers voted in favour of plans to stage a series of court walkouts from the end of June.
Having now completed their seventh week of action, barristers are currently running bi-weekly court walkouts in calling on the government to increase legal aid fees by 25 per cent .
Barristers in March had previously voted to adopt a “no returns” policy, that saw them refuse to take on work from colleagues.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) last week opened a ballot to allow barristers to vote on plans to further escalate the action by running a continuous strike from September onwards.
The increases come in the midst of widespread disruption in the court system as disrepair in court buildings has also worsened the backlog of cases.
The HMCTS statistics show that 2128 fewer cases were completed in June than in March, in a shift that has seen the case backlog creep up towards the levels seen in the summer of last year.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “Courts are in a crumbling state and the criminal justice system is on its knees.”
“To make a significant dent in the backlog, sustained investment is needed to ensure there are enough judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers to cover the mountain of cases,” the Law Society president said.
“Firstly, the UK government should commit to the bare minimum 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates for criminal defence solicitors as recommended by Lord Bellamy.”
An MoJ spokesperson said the longer term reduction in the case backlog over the previous year shows the success of the government’s efforts to tackle the buildup of cases.
“These stats show that our court recovery measures are working – something that the CBA is putting at risk by its harmful strike action,” the MoJ spokesperson said.
“This recovery is underpinned by our half-a-billion-pounds plan to speed up access to justice – including removing the limit on Crown Court sitting days, opening two new super courtrooms and keeping an extra 30 Nightingale courtrooms open for longer.”