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Inquiry launched as Covid-19 stretches delays in justice

30 July 2020

The Committee has announced an inquiry today into how delays to court cases can be addressed.

The inquiry, Court Capacity, will review the practical experience of delays in the courts for lawyers, witnesses, victims and defendants. It will investigate whether the increase of 4,500 court sitting days will be sufficient to clear the backlog of cases and what long-term solutions, including digital hearings, may be possible.

Submission of written evidence

The full terms of reference for the inquiry can be found on the Committee website. Individuals and organisations wanting to contribute written evidence based on the terms of reference are invited to send submissions to this address. The deadline for written submissions is end of business day on 7 September 2020. Oral evidence will follow later in the autumn.

The Committee invites written evidence submissions on some or all of the following points via the Committee's website by Monday 7 September, 2020:

  • The impact of Covid-19 on court sitting days and the backlog of cases, including whether the one-off additional funding and 4,500 additional days provided for 2020/21 is sufficient and staffing and recruitment issues;

  • Practical experience of delay in Crown and other courts among lawyers, witnesses, victims and defendants and whether there is appropriate access to justice;

  • The extent to which courts have appropriate capacity post-Covid-19, including the extent to which courtrooms are idle across England and Wales; and

  • Long-term solutions to reduce delay in cases coming to trial, including the move to the digital transformation of the court estate.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill, said: 

“Justice delayed can be justice denied. More and more people are waiting for their day in court. We welcome the Government's attempts to reduce the backlog by thinking beyond simply increasing sitting days. We also urge it to ensure that access to justice remains at the heart of its proposals. We are impressed by the way new technology has been used by courts to speed things along in some cases, but more research is needed on how ordinary people – defendants and witnesses – experience this technology. Fair hearings require the engagement, comprehension and comfort of all those involved.”

Further information

Image: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robert Lamb -