PCCs from the East Midlands have spoken out after the region was excluded in government plans for ten new temporary courts to tackle the Covid-19 backlog.
The Government has identified ten areas in England and Wales to host new “Nightingale courts” from next month in a bid to ensure the “wheels of justice keep turning”.
Across the East Midlands, the number of outstanding court cases has rocketed, leaving vulnerable victims waiting months – or years – for justice.
Despite this, the region has missed out on the new emergency support announced by the government and faces a growing crisis.
Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire PCC and Chair of the East Midlands Criminal Justice Board, said: “It is absolutely astonishing that a major region of England and Wales has been ignored completely, as it has so frequently in the past when it comes to governmental support and funding.
“The legal system is bursting at the seams. Locally, we have just as big a backlog per capita as anywhere else yet again we are left to fend for ourselves. What kind of message does this send vulnerable victims’ who are being denied justice simply because of where they live?
“The pandemic has exacerbated an existing crisis and it will take much more than 10 extra courts to undo the damage. If the government is serious about delivering “speedier” justice for victims, and helping the justice system to recover post-coronavirus, then it needs to tackle the whole problem and avoid further delays.”
The new courts will hear civil, family and tribunals as well as non-custodial crime cases to free up capacity in crown courts for serious hearings with a jury where cells and secure dock facilities are required.
Nottinghamshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Foody said: “The pandemic has impacted on the criminal justice system across England and Wales exacerbating the backlog that already existed prior to lockdown. Restricting help to ten areas is an injustice for thousands of victims and witnesses across England and Wales who face a much longer journey to justice and recovery.”
Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa, who also chairs Derbyshire’s Local Criminal Justice Board, added: “The government has failed to appreciate the scale of the crisis in the East Midlands, as it has many other areas.
“Delays to justice hurt the very people the system is designed to protect. The lack of action and help in our region shows no respect or consideration for the thousands of victims already under significant stress and strain.
“I am particularly disappointed by this news as I have been working very closely with local HMCTS and other CJ partners to identify two premises suitable for use as Nightingale Courts which could be opened up in Derbyshire. Why have they not been considered? Don’t the people of the East Midlands deserve speedier justice with fewer victims waiting years for their cases to be heard?”
It is understood that the backlog in the three areas stands at approximately:
Derby and Derbyshire - 6,000
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland - 8,500
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire - Just under 10,000
Derby and Derbyshire - 380
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland - 500
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire - 900
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 07702 541401
Posted on Tuesday 21st July 2020