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15/09/23

Crown Court Backlog | Managing Client Expectations

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One of the consequences of the Covid Pandemic is an exacerbation of the length of time it takes for criminal prosecutions to be brought before the Criminal Courts, especially, the Crown Court.

Between 23 March and 18 May 2020, the Lord Chief Justice suspended all Jury trials given that the Courts could not readily adhere to the ‘Social Distancing Guidelines’.

These restrictions resulted in a ‘knock-on effect’ whereby the number of cases waiting longer than a year to be heard in the Crown Court increased by over 300% with an increase of 27% in the number of defendants being held on remand in custody.

Helen Holder of Kangs Solicitors comments upon this backlog and the pressure upon lawyers to manage client expectations.

Other Contributing Factors | The Law Society’s Report | Kangs Crown Court Solicitors

The Law Society rejected the notion that the backlog being experienced in the Crown Courts has developed solely due to the Covid Pandemic, citing that it increased by 23% in the previous year, created by pre-Pandemic failings, and that the Pandemic was put forward as a scapegoat to disguise inherent problems in the system.

Nature of delays experienced

In response to a survey conducted by the Law Society directed to 8,663 solicitors, the findings of those who responded revealed that:

  • 64% had experienced delays in cases being heard
  • 47% had experienced cases being adjourned
  • 26% had experienced cases which had been transferred to a different venue
  • 25% had experienced cases being conducted remotely

Principal factors for delays

The principal factors for the disruptions were:

  • a lack of Court Rooms
  • a lack of Judges
  • flooded buildings
  • outstanding property repairs
  • barristers conducting industrial action

Adverse effects upon clients

Clients complained that they have been:

  • emotionally affected
  • denied access to Justice
  • financially affected
  • left in limbo
  • subjected to their time being wasted

Proposed solutions

These were numerous and included:

  • better monitoring/improved scheduling
  • extend working hours and Sitting days
  • improvement in technology and training
  • more courts and use of remote hearings
  • more staff, litigators and Judges

It seems clear that the pre-Pandemic backlog arose from serious deficiencies in existence at that time and these have simply been highlighted and worsened by the Pandemic.

Recommendations and Proposals| Kangs Serious Crime Defence Solicitors

Law Society Recommendations

Against the background of a backlog of 63,408 cases at the end of June 2023, The Law Society recommended:

  • greater investment in buildings, staff and Judges
  • a properly funded Legal Aid system
  • an endeavour to better manage cases with less emphasis on Courtroom attendance
  • integration of more reliable technology
  • attention to better data collection

Response from the Government

The Government has stated:

  • it has a target of reducing the backlog to 53,000 cases
  • Crown Courts are to work at maximum capacity, and Judicial ‘sitting days’ will not be capped for the next financial year
  • £220 million will be provided for essential modernisations and repair work across the next two years
  • Annual investment will be substantially increased

Official Comments | Kangs Crown Court Trials Solicitors

Lubna Shuja, President of the Law Society since October 2022 stated:

  • ‘The data cuts through the rhetoric and clearly shows that delays in the criminal justice system aren’t coming down anytime soon’.
  • ‘The accused, victims, defendants and their families are waiting to see justice and are left to cope with unresolved cases hanging over them for years’.
  • ‘We have been sayings that these delays are unacceptable, but it is only getting worse. The government needs to act now and invest in a properly functioning system if we are to tackle the court delays.’
  • ‘The Public need to know they can rely on a functioning criminal justice system’.

Lord Chancellor, and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk stated:

  • ‘This government knows victims want to see justice served as quickly as possible and so we are making sure Crown Court Judges can hear as many cases as possible this year’.
  • ‘We have a world leading Justice System and a legal sector that is a cornerstone of our economy, and we should have modern, fit for the future Court buildings that reflect these high standards’.

Gareth Davies, Head of the National Audit Office stated:

  • ‘Despite efforts to increase capacity in Criminal Courts, it looks likely that the backlog will remain a problem for many years.’

Managing Client Expectations | Kangs Serious Crime Defence Solicitors

The Solicitors Regulatory Authority stated that ‘solicitors need to be more aware of their client’s expectations’.

Kangs Solicitors has always enjoyed recognition for its provision of legal services of the highest order to each and every client both pre and post Pandemic.

The management of each client’s expectations has always been and will continue to be paramount, despite numerous additional complications and delays resulting from the Pandemic.

It is irrefutable that the pressures upon a client charged with criminal activity has substantially increased over recent years, irrespective of the Pandemic, as the result of, inter alia, lengthy delays in matters coming to Trial before a court and the ever-diminishing availability of any form of legal aid, let alone adequate financial cover.

However, the Team at Kangs Solicitors is well versed at supporting clients through the tortuous worry inevitably arising from involvement in the criminal prosecution system and handling our client’s expectations through these difficult times.

Who Can I Contact for Help? | Kangs National Criminal Defence Solicitors

If you are under arrest or investigation, or anticipate such events, for any alleged criminal activity of any nature the Team at Kangs Solicitors will be delighted to assist you.

If we can be of assistance, our Team is available via telephone 0333 370 4333 and by email info@kangssolicitors.co.uk.

We provide initial no obligation discussion at our three offices in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Alternatively, discussions can be held virtually through live conferencing or telephone.

Contact:

Sukhdip-Randhawa

Sukhdip Randhawa

Email Sukhdip

0121 449 9888

020 7936 6396

0161 817 5020

Helen Kangs 0491 BW

Helen Holder

Email Helen

0121 449 9888

020 7936 6396

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