Written evidence from Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales

 

Wales experience:

This joint submission is on behalf of the Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales in relation to the Justice Committee’s call for evidence on the impact of Covid19 on the courts. The Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales are:

              Alun Michael – PCC for South Wales and Chair of the Policing in Wales group

              Arfon Jones – PCC for North Wales

              Jeff Cuthbert – PCC for Gwent

              Dafydd Llywelyn – PCC for Dyfed-Powys

The four Local Criminal Justice Boards in Wales are chaired by the PCC for their respective areas. All PCCs in Wales are members of the All Wales Criminal Justice Board (AWCJB) and have made significant efforts to understand and support measures to address the challenges for the courts. The PCCs arranged for an additional meeting of the AWCJB in order to address the growing backlog in the system and they have met with Criminal Justice Lead in HMCTS. The PCCs are represented on the AWCJB recovery group by the PCC for South Wales and the Deputy PCC for Gwent.

There is a nuanced view about the provision of data. In some areas, it is felt that at national level, there was very little data forthcoming regarding the extent of local backlogs and this took significant time and effort to follow up. Whereas in Gwent, it is felt that HMCTS have offered a significant amount of data. However, they were not able to look at the data and be able to prioritise cases, understand the requirements of addressing backlogs including the different logistical requirements for different kinds of such e.g. remand hearing vs. murder trial and therefore do not agree nor have they seen a methodology about how to address the backlog. HMCTS have since published their recovery plan which should result in a national approach. Similar planning will now have to be done at a local level. All PCCs in Wales instigated discussions with Chief Executives of partner agencies to ensure data was made available at the local level to assess and address the situation within the area. All PCCs supported the approach taken by the APCC leads David Lloyd and Sue Mountstevens with their efforts to raise the urgency and seriousness of the backlogged cases.

There were also some challenges in accessing the HMCTS Recovery Plans at an early stage and PCC influence on this is difficult as there is no PCC representation on the senior national governance structures.

Magistrates courts in Dyfed-Powys and North Wales have been able to increase sittings to a level where the backlog is being addressed and indeed has been resolved in some areas. Gwent had been given some assurances that the backlog was being addressed but now believe that this has faced some issues.

As for the Crown Court, there are more significant concerns and progress has been slower. The additional court established in Swansea Civic Centre opened on 17th August. This should allow cases to progress at pace but we are still some way from achieving the backlog and detailed figures have not yet been shared at local level. Committed efforts have been made to open a Crown Court in City Hall Cardiff however that hasn’t happened to date, despite a positive will and resolve by all local partners, including the PCC, to bring it to fruition. Similarly a venue in Newport was considered although not suitable due to social distancing restrictions.

Positive impacts

 

Adverse impacts:

Challenges / risks: