Backlog of nearly 1,000 cases at Ipswich Crown Court after Covid delays

Anthony Down was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The backlog of cases at Ipswich Crown Court has more than doubled since 2019 - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The backlog in cases at Ipswich Crown Court has more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, government figures have revealed. 

In the second quarter of 2021 (April to June), there were 937 outstanding cases at the Suffolk court, compared with 387 for the same period in 2019. 

The number of outstanding sex offence cases at Ipswich also rose from 35 in 2019 to 101 in 2021. 

New jury trials at Ipswich Crown Court were suspended in March 2020 as Covid took hold, and it was four months before they restarted in July. 

At Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex, the number of outstanding cases increased from 447 in the second quarter of 2019 to 1,129 in 2021. 

Experts have warned that the backlog, which they say was mounting before the pandemic due to funding cuts, has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. 

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was spending £500m to tackle the number of outstanding cases. 

Most Read

Suffolk QC Simon Spence said the government needs to "invest sufficiently" to address the backlog. 

Simon Spence QC talking to the media during Joe Storey's murder trial. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Suffolk QC Simon Spence said the government needs to invest "sufficiently" - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

"While much of the backlog is due to Covid, it should be remembered that the courts were operating well below capacity long before Covid arrived on our shores," he said.

"There remains an ongoing reluctance by government to invest sufficiently to clear the backlog. The 'nightingale' courts are far too few in number to deal with the problem and a shortage of judges means that courts still do not sit to their full capacity.

"If the government is serious about dealing with the current crisis, they would invest heavily in the crumbling court estate, ensure that there are enough judges to try the cases and enough court staff to man the courts."

In October, the National Audit Office (NAO) said MoJ models suggested the crown court backlog could still be between 17% and 27% higher than pre-pandemic levels by November 2024.

It said the backlog had risen by 23% in the year up to the pandemic.

An MoJ spokesman said: “We have kept justice moving despite the vast impact of the pandemic and are investing almost half a billion pounds to drive recovery and deliver the swift access to justice victims deserve.

“Challenges remain but outstanding magistrates cases are falling and we have over 75 court rooms operating in the south east region.”