Speaking to Legal Action in September 2020, Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors ’ Association, described the backlog of cases in the criminal courts as ‘dire’. He believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has made what were already unacceptable delays worse. ‘Lawyers have been complaining about the backlog for a long, long time,’ Waddington said. ‘Some cases were already taking years from date of offence to outcome.’
At the end of May 2020, there were 416,600 outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts (Coronavirus (COVID-19): the impact on courts. Sixth report of session 2019–21
, HC 519, 30 July 2020, para 19, page 9). This was well above the previous peak of 327,000 outstanding cases in 2015. On 7 September, the Ministry of Justice published a Criminal Courts Recovery Plan in which it stated that it had already resumed jury trials in three-quarters of Crown Court buildings and aimed to have opened 250 rooms for trials by the end of October 2020 (COVID-19: update on the HMCTS response for criminal courts in England & Wales
, HM Courts & Tribunals Service, page 1).