The prime minister and the justice secretary have both said that they are anxious to improve the criminal justice system with reference to prosecutions and the time it takes to get offences concerning violence against women and girls to trial (Dominic Raab confuses meaning of misogyny in BBC interview, 6 October).
“Non-priority” cases backlogged in the crown courts are now listing into 2023-24. It is not good enough for victims of crime or defendants to have their lives on hold and to have to relive events in court months or even years after they took place.
Magistrates’ Association members hold the highest values of fairness, justice and the belief “that justice delayed is justice denied”. Many magistrates courts, after a period of fantastic commitment by volunteer magistrates throughout the pandemic, have little or no backlog of cases. We are well placed to stop sending cases to the crown courts if only our jurisdiction could be increased to a 12-month custodial sentence for a single offence. This would ease the burden on crown courts, speeding up justice for all.
Achieving “real-world” practical change to improve the justice system for women and girls, and for all victims and witnesses who suffer because of long crown court backlogs is urgent, and it could start now. It’s time to demonstrate faith in the magistracy to play its part in resolving these issues.
National chair, Magistrates’ Association