The Crown Court will work at maximum capacity for the third year running to reduce waiting times to deliver access to justice, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has today (11 August 2023) announced.
The decision to continue not to cap judicial ‘sitting days’ will mean the Crown Court can hear the highest possible number of criminal cases this year.
Court buildings across the country will also benefit from £220 million for essential modernisation and repair work across the next two years, meaning annual investment will increase to £120 million by March 2025 – to minimise disruptions caused by old buildings.
These improvements will maintain the heritage of the estate while ensuring it is equipped with the latest technology to deliver modern justice, as well as improving accessibility for all court users.
The government is also extending a separate capacity boost first announced in December to allow the Immigration and Asylum Tribunals to work through asylum appeals as quickly as possible and remove unnecessary delays while cases are considered.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, said:
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.
The Crown Court worked for more than 100,000 sitting days across the country last year after the caps in place before the pandemic were removed.
It heard cases for more than 98,500 days in 2021/22 after the Ministry of Justice first lifted the cap, compared to around 82,000 in 2019/20.
In May and June this year, criminal courts dealt with thousands more cases compared to previous months as judges, court staff and those across the legal profession worked to tackle the outstanding caseload.
Over 10,000 days were sat in March alone – the most days in a single month since July 2015.
The government has made £220 million available over the two years to March 2025 to improve court and tribunal buildings.
This additional funding has been agreed by the government, the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals to ensure professional and public court users have the modern and accessible buildings needed to deliver justice.
The improvements to the court estate will ensure those on the front line of the justice system will benefit from modern energy efficient heating and cooling systems to projects that will make our buildings accessible and sustainable.
The announcement builds on the 24 Nightingale courtrooms – opened as temporary spaces to boost capacity following the pandemic – that have remained open in 2023.
The government say it is on track to clearing the ‘legacy’ asylum backlog and latest Home Office published figures show it has been reduced by a nearly a third since the start of December – down by over 28,000. There are already 40% more asylum decision-makers in post compared to the start of December 2022 and will be 2,500 by next month.