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Courts: Coronavirus

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL14479, tabled on 22 March 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to reduce delays to court cases arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answered on

7 April 2021

We are keenly aware of the need to improve timeliness for both defendants and victims, and mitigate the impact of delays on victims and witnesses. Judges have been prioritising the most serious cases throughout the pandemic, including those involving vulnerable victims and witnesses as well as those with defendants nearing custody time limits.

We will continue to do more, and the recovery of our courts to full operational capacity is our highest priority in order to reduce waiting times within the justice system. The steps taken so far – to adjust court rooms to hold Covid-secure trials, to open more court rooms, and to move to virtual hearings where possible – have helped. Crown Court disposals increased from June 2020 and were higher than pre-Covid levels for the first two weeks of 2021. The increase has slowed slightly, with disposals throughout February consistently 5% below the pre-Covid baseline, and the outstanding caseload in Magistrates’ courts has reduced from the peak reached in August. As of the end of March 2021, we have created a total of 60 Nightingale courts.

We continue to work with partners across the justice system to assess what more can be done to improve the resilience of the courts during the pandemic, and to assist faster recovery. We recognise the particular impact of delays on victims and witnesses, and are providing £151m to victim and witness support services in 2021-22 to ensure victims receive the support they need.