Four top inspectors have come together to highlight their ‘grave concerns’ about a growing backlog of court cases in England, with the figure standing at 457,518 in November 2020.

Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, Sir Thomas Winsor, chief inspector of constabulary, Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, and Kevin McGinty, chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), have issued a joint report, outlining the ways in which the coronavirus is impacting the work of police, prosecutors, prisons, probation and youth offending teams.

The “unprecedented and very serious” delays are “the greatest risk to criminal justice and the ripple effects across all agencies are profound”.

The number of cases in crown courts was 44% higher in December than February of 2020, while some cases are already being scheduled for 2022.

The Bar Council has called for an additional £55m to improve courts and increase capacity for hearings to help reduce the backlog, and the government said it was investing £450m to “boost recovery in the courts and deliver swifter justice”, insisting this was “already yielding results.”

Mr Russell said: 

“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 of time preparing for cases that do not go ahead.”