Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has repeated Labour’s recent calls to reduce jury sizes from 12 members to seven, to cut the growing backlog of court cases to be heard.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exerted an enormous pressure on the courts system, leading to a backlog of thousands of cases.

Lammy said the justice system is “facing its gravest crisis since World War Two” and that 

temporarily cutting juries to seven members, as was done during the war, could help by facilitating socially-distanced trials and reducing the likelihood of jurors becoming infected in court.

Recent reports suggest that the number of unheard cases in crown courts had reached 54,000, with some cases from last year not due before a jury until 2022.

Mr Lammy has also urged the government to speed up the rollout of temporary “Nightingale courts” to hear civil, family and tribunals work, as well as non-custodial crime cases.

“Victims of rape, murder, domestic abuse, robbery and assault are facing delays of up to four years because of the government’s failure to act,” he said.

The Ministry of Justice responded that it had prioritised measures that yielded the greatest impact, such as installing plexiglass screens in courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms. It said over 290 courtrooms were now set up to hold COVID-secure jury trials.

It also said: “But we know more must be done and are investing £110 million into a range of measures to drive this recovery further, including opening more Nightingale courts.”

Image: UK Parliament