By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Hundreds of people are waiting for their court cases to be heard in Kent amid “substantial” delays within the criminal justice system, says a police chief.
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott expressed his “disappointment” that some crown court trial hearings have been pushed back to January 2023.
Victims and defendants are facing two-month hold-ups for magistrates’ court hearings, such as for speeding and drink-driving, due to Covid.
At its peak, the workload going through Kent courts doubled in the pandemic, with “many hundreds” of cases caught up in delays, says Mr Scott’s office.
Pressure has been put on Boris Johnson’s government to introduce pop-up courts across the country to urgently expand capacity and ease pressure on ageing sites which do not have “sufficient space” to manage social distancing.
In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Scott said: “We have been seeing substantial delays of court cases being presented to the Crown Prosecution Service and the times which they are getting to court.
“I know there are cases listed for January 2023 because the court service has not ramped up enough capacity to get those victims justice.”
Almost half of all courts across England were closed and jury trials paused last March to minimise social interaction. Amid Covid, the government has tried to keep the justice system running, some have moved to remote technology.
To keep the wheels of justice turning in Kent, legal teams have been working with their Sussex neighbours to manage the backlog.
Protective screens have also been installed in courts to ensure juror deliberation rooms are Covid-secure, according to the Ministry of Justice.
But there have been problems with courts reopening as some staff have needed to self-isolate, along with lawyers, victims, witnesses and defendants.
Maidstone Crown Court has remained mostly open but concerns over the more transmissible Kent mutant variant forced jury trials to be put on hold in November.
Canterbury Crown Court reopened its doors from June 8 after a three-month UK-wide lockdown and jury trials resumed on June 29, says the government.
Councillors called for action to speed up the justice process at a virtual County Hall meeting involving the Kent and Medway police and crime panel yesterday,
Folkestone and Hythe District Council deputy leader, Cllr Jennifer Hollingsbee (Con), said: “Anything the commissioner can do to move that forward would be a really good thing.”
Last July, UK ministers agreed to create 10 temporary ‘Nightingale’ courts in England where hearings are held in non-court buildings, such as the Ministry of Justice HQ in London, Middlesbrough Town Hall and Peterborough Cathedral.
“Kent desperately needs a Nightingale court,” urged Mr Scott. He also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We need those resources as soon as possible, otherwise victims will lose faith in the court system.”
The Ministry of Justice, a major government body which oversees the court system, has not ruled out the move, but no specific sites have been revealed.
In response to Mr Scott’s demands, a spokesman for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: “We continue to explore options for more Nightingale courts.”
Complete failure Scott has done nothing except soundbites.he has no status with MoJ or the courts admin.
Most cases go on and on.
When I visited the USA they had Local Courts that handled 15-20 cases a day. Quick Fire. These were mainly for Minor Offences, Parking, D&D, etc. even some illegal drug offences. Major offences like murder did take a bit longer, but some, where guilt was obvious, were also seemingly quick fire.
I would hope murder cases would take considerably longer than parking offences & street dealers.
In the good ol’ US of A some convicted mmurderers are on death row for decades.
A real exemplar of the way justice should be done.
The judges and Court system in the UK are a disgrace. I sat on a jury for 2 weeks, the case could have been completed in 3/4 days. The judges are lazy late starting in the morning long lunches and early finish.
But they need to fuel the gout..
Even worse in county court where dishonest tenants are taking advantage to accrue many months arrears and Margate county court has delayed a case with 11 months arrears from October to November, January and now March. So much for justice under UK system.
As some tenants take advantage of incompetence and say ‘thank goodness for covid’.
I sued a so called builder for £17000 because the conservatory he put up blew down in a storm. He was not insured to build conservatory’s his insurance company told me
and he said “it’s not my fault it was an act of God” I took him to court and won the case he pays £100 per month after telling the court he does not earn much he had no books to show. He had recommended trader on his van.