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Managing the backlog in criminal courts

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a growing backlog of cases waiting to be tried in the criminal courts system. During the first national lockdown, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) closed some court buildings, and suspended all jury trials. Since then, courts have reopened, but national guidelines for social distancing mean they are unable to hold as many hearings as previously. The backlog has had significant impacts on defendants, some of whom are held in custody on remand, and on victims and witnesses.

The Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) and HMCTS are implementing a COVID-19 recovery programme to tackle the growing backlog. These efforts will have impacts across the whole criminal justice system.

This study will examine whether the Ministry and HMCTS are effectively managing the backlog of cases in the criminal courts. It will assess their understanding of demand and capacity in the criminal courts, the effectiveness of their COVID-19 recovery programme, and their efforts to work across the criminal justice system to understand and plan for future demand.

More information about our work to report on government’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.