Law society

Law Society calls for ‘sustained investment’ in courts to reduce growing backlog

Saturday August 13, 2022 11:31 a.m.

The Law Society has called on the government to make a ‘sustained investment’ in Britain’s justice system after new data showed the backlog of cases had worsened in the previous quarter.

The backlog of cases waiting to be heard in the Crown Courts of England and Wales rose from 58,540 in April to 58,973 in June, according to statistics from the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS ).

The addition of 433 new cases to the country’s Crown Court backlog comes after the backlog began to decline in the first three months of 2022 after hitting record highs during Covid-19.

Statistics show the backlog had already started to pile up before lawyers voted in favor of plans to stage a series of court walkouts from the end of June.

Having now completed their seventh week of action, lawyers are currently staging bi-weekly walkouts demanding the government raise legal aid fees by 25 per cent.

Lawyers in March had previously voted to adopt a ‘no return’ policy, which saw them refuse to accept work from colleagues.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) opened a ballot last week to allow lawyers to vote on plans to further step up action by staging a continued strike from September.

The increases come amid widespread disruption to the court system, as dilapidated court buildings have also added to the backlog of cases.

HMCTS statistics show that 2,128 fewer cases were resolved in June than in March, in a change that has seen the backlog of cases rise towards levels seen in the summer of last year.

Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce said, “The courts are in shambles and the criminal justice system is on its knees.”

“To drastically reduce the backlog, sustained investment is needed to ensure there are enough judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to cover the mountain of cases,” the Bar President said. .

“First, the UK government should commit to a minimum 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates for criminal defense lawyers, as recommended by Lord Bellamy.”

A Department of Justice spokesperson said the longer-term reduction in the backlog of cases from the previous year shows the success of the government’s efforts to tackle the backlog of cases.

“These statistics show that our court restoration measures are working – something the CBA is putting at risk with its harmful strike action,” the Justice Department spokesperson said.

“This recovery is underpinned by our half a billion pound plan to speed up access to justice – including removing the limit on Crown Court sitting days, opening two new super chambers of hearing and keeping 30 additional Nightingale courtrooms open longer.”