More than a ‘lick of paint’ needed to clear courts backlog, union says

The Government’s promised spending spree will need to give courts more than a “lick of paint” to clear the backlog of cases, a union has said.

Details of the funding published by the Treasury on Wednesday were a “good start” but more investment was needed, according to the FDA civil service managers’ union.

A document setting out Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s emergency package of support to help keep people in work as the coronavirus economic crisis hits gave more information on measures for courts and prisons maintenance announced by the Prime Minister last week.

HMP Pentonville (Jonathan Brady/PA)
HMP Pentonville (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Government has pledged:

– £102 million to modernise courts in England and Wales including; £55 million for essential court maintenance, £37 million for technology, and £10 million for regeneration projects outside London and the South East which will support employment and economic growth.

– £40 million to improve the environmental sustainability of courts and tribunal buildings, looking at ways of reducing energy and water usage.

– £143 million to improve the prison and probation buildings including; £20 million to speed up the digitalisation of prisons, £60 million for 1,000 temporary prison units to expand the capacity of the estate, and £63 million on maintenance.

Steven Littlewood, the FDA’s national officer for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Anyone who has been to a court and seen broken doors, threadbare carpets or sewage leaking from the ceiling will welcome this investment in our court estate.

“We are pleased that the Government is listening to our concerns about the proper funding of justice.

“However, although this is a good start it will take more than a lick of paint to clear the backlog of 40,000 cases.

FW Pomeroy’s Statue of Lady Justice atop the Central Criminal Court building at the Old Bailey, London (JOnathan Brady/PA)
FW Pomeroy’s Statue of Lady Justice atop the Central Criminal Court building at the Old Bailey, London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We need more investment in both defence and prosecution to ensure that our system is properly resourced and delivers justice for the public.”

Courts face a backlog of more than half a million criminal cases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, official estimates show.

The number of cases waiting to be heard by magistrates shot up 22% between the week ending March 8 and May 17 to around 484,000, according to provisional data published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) last month.

Meanwhile, outstanding crown court cases rose by 4% to around 41,000.

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