- Four criminal justice watchdogs for England and Wales have warned they have "grave concerns" about the impact of court backlogs caused by the pandemic.
- Some crimes from last year won’t go for jury trials till 2022.
- Court works were delayed at the first phase of lockdowns during the pandemic and now courts are creeping back up with the pandemic protocols. Watchdogs warn that the continuing delay in justice administration could damage the entire justice system.
- About 65% of the Crown Court backlog - 27,700 cases - are believed to be trials.
COVID has brought numbness throughout the world without leaving an inch of peacefulness. It altered the order, lifestyle even the lives of millions. Due to the pandemic, every economic, social, cultural, political, even, judicial activity has been temporarily suspended around the world. It has brought a grave concern in every field.
"GRAVE CONCERN" FOR JUSTICE
Inspectors from police, prison, probation, and prosecution raise the issue of delay in trials due to the pandemic could damage the criminal justice system. This came up after hearing the 54,000 unheard case backlogs in the Crown Court. The inspectors say the unprecedented situation in the courts is having a ripple effect across all of criminal justice.
Court works were slowed and delayed due to the first phase lockdown advised for fighting against the spread of pandemics. Then, it started creeping backups under the surveillance of covid protocols. The watchdogs arrived at a warning about the damages that could affect the judicial administration and criminal justice system from the continued delay.
“Crown courts deal with the most serious cases, so this backlog concerns us all. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant severe delays and numerous cancellations throughout 2020, and this has harmed everyone involved. Delays mean victims must wait longer for cases to be heard. Some will withdraw support for prosecutions because they have lost faith in the process. Witnesses will find it difficult to recall events that took place many months ago, and prosecutors waste significant periods preparing for cases that do not go ahead” - said Justin Russel, Chief Inspector of Probation.
HAPPENINGS IN THE CROWN COURT
- About 65% of the Crown Court backlogs and 27,000 are believed to be trials.
- There are 410 courtrooms able to hear cases across 79 Crown Courts. Of those, only 290 are deemed safe to hold jury trials. That does not mean that all can be used at any one time.
- Large trials are taking two courtrooms linked with video to meet up with the Public Health England Guidelines.
- Jurors are separated by a plastic glass screen between each of them.
Even if precautions had been taken, the delivery of justice slows due to some isolation situations. “We are now running fewer courtrooms than we could run in normal times if we had the funding to run all our courtrooms at the same time. But the capacity limits are not only funding. Capacity limits are the physical capacity of the buildings, the size of the cells, the size of our docks, and critically, the number of staff... Capacity in terms of physical court space, is probably about as good as it's going to get.” said senior judge Mr. Justice Edis.
It was an unpredicted situation that shook the world economies. Justice delivery is yet a situation to be resolved as there are several inmates in the jails of every country waiting for their trials. As using every other service, courts could also use necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the pandemic and start trials at a certain number to avoid delayed justice.
"Justice delayed is justice denied”.
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