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'Long-term decline’ in British criminal justice as delays lengthen
Law Society of England and Wales HQ at Chancery Lane in London Pic: Shutterstock

23 Jan 2023 / global Print

'Long-term decline’ in UK justice as delays lengthen

The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that Crown court cases outstanding for more than two years have spiked to 4,893 – a 69% increase and the highest recorded number waiting this long since reporting started in 2014.

Criminal court statistics for July to September 2022 show a significant increase in wait times for cases going to trial.


Outstanding caseloads in both the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts have risen from the previous quarter.  A quarter (28%) have been open for a year or more.

The number of outstanding cases in the Crown court rose from 59,473 at the end of June 2022, to 62,766 at the end of September 2022.

These figures may reflect, in part, an uptick in ineffective trials caused by the criminal barristers strike during this time.

The number of outstanding cases in the Crown Court Q3 2021 was 2,894.

“Although the statistics paint a long-term picture of decline in criminal justice, the system can still be restored with proper investment,” said Law Society President Lubna Shuja.

“The fact that there has been a 69% increase, from September 2021 to September 2022, in Crown court cases that have been waiting for more than two years, is unacceptable. An inefficient system is ultimately a drain on public money.”

Lubna Shuja added: “Investment is needed across all areas of the criminal justice system to ensure progress is made on reducing the backlogs, so victims and defendants no longer face such long waits for justice. 

“1.35 million people were dealt with by the criminal justice system last year. Access to justice is vital to maintaining public safety and a fair society. 

“Our recently published five-point plan to help tackle the backlog identifies where investment is needed, including in the crumbling court buildings and the judges, lawyers and staff who work in them.

“A starting point would be to increase criminal defence rates by the minimum 15% recommended by the independent review of criminal legal aid, which the government chose to ignore.”

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