Months of delays for criminal court cases leave victims in limbo
Criminal court cases in Wolverhampton and Stafford are taking months longer to complete than they did eight years ago, new figures show.
Experts have warned that cuts to criminal justice have resulted in a “crumbling” system, leaving victims and defendants in limbo for months or even years.
The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice – which covers trials that were wrapped up during the first three months of this year – show the average time between a crime being committed and the case being completed at Wolverhampton Crown Court stood at 556 days.
This was 215 days longer than during the same period in 2011.
That’s an increase of 63 per cent, despite the number of cases dropping from 598 to 325 over the same period.
In Stafford the average time between a crime being committed and the case being completed at Stafford Crown Court stood at 633 days, 88 days longer than during the same period in 2011.
This was an increase of 16 per cent, despite the number of cases dropping from 243 to 155.
The figures refer to the average time elapsed after an offence was committed, meaning trials for historical offences could distort the figures.
Stephanie Boyce, vice president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said cuts to the criminal justice system risked undermining the UK’s reputation for upholding the law.
“If you want justice you have to invest – decades of cuts to this fundamental part of our country’s infrastructure mean the whole system is crumbling,” she said.
The length of time taken for police or the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges in the cases resolved at Wolverhampton Crown Court and Stafford Crown Court have also increased.
In the three months to March 2011, the average time between the offence, or alleged offence, taking place and charges being brought was 145 days in Wolverhampton and 330 days in Stafford.
By 2019, this had risen to 343 days – an increase of 137 per cent – in Wolverhampton; and in Stafford it had risen to 414 days, an increase of 25 per cent.
Police officers blame cuts to their ranks – forces in England and Wales have lost almost 22,000 officers since 2010 – and reductions in funding for the delays.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “At all stages of the investigative process, there are fewer officers dealing with escalating demands.
“It is hardly surprising then that investigations are taking longer to complete as officers juggle competing demands, while trying their very best to care for their victims and bring offenders to justice.”
A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We are working hard to reduce the time it takes for cases to go through the courts and waiting times are at their lowest in four years, despite an increasingly complex caseload including more historical offences.
"We have invested in new technology which is speeding up the process, and the number of outstanding cases is at its lowest rate in nearly 20 years.”
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