Budget cuts are so severe in the court system in England and Wales that they are affecting important trials. The budget cuts have resulted in significant reductions in the numbers of state prosecutors and other staff in criminal courts as well as resources necessary to bring cases to trial in a timely manner. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism reports that government figures show “a rise in the number of trials failing specifically because of administrative reasons, such as failures with equipment and accommodation.” Maeve McClenaghan reports that trials failing for such reasons have risen by nearly a third since 2009.
Many serious sexual crimes and serious violent crimes are being delayed. Crown courts typically have about six available courtrooms but only about four get used, due to inadequate staffing. One judge reported that, out of his fifteen current cases, fourteen had been pushed back.
At one of the crown courts in England, a judge complained that a sexual assault trial he presided over was being pushed back eight months because the court did not have room at that time. The trial was supposed to be held on July 22, 2013, but was pushed back to March 26, 2014. “Many people, whether they’re involved in this case or not, would regard such a delay in a case of this gravity as appalling and I wouldn’t seek to dissuade them,” Resident judge Michael Pert QC [Queen’s Counsel] told the court, last July. “I have no choice in the matter,” he added. In that case, the defendant pled not guilty and was released on bail until the rescheduled March 2014 court date. Pert noted that this delay gave the alleged offender unrestricted chances to hurt other women.
Maeve McClenaghan, “Justice Delayed: Administrative Problems Delay Serious Trials,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 31, 2013, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/07/31/justice-delayed-administrative-problems-delay-serious-trials/.
Student Researcher: Chelsea Deetken (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Martin Kinahan (Santa Rosa Junior College)