Court Backlog: Covid-19

Justice – in the House of Commons on 9th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Transport)

What steps his Department is taking to reduce the backlog of court cases that has accumulated as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have suggested already, we are currently engaged in a herculean national effort to get our courts back up and running, starting with the use of remote technology, which I talked about a few moments ago. Beyond that, we are reopening courts that have been closed. We are now up to 168 courts opened as of 3 June, and we intend to open many more in the weeks ahead. We are also working to make sure those courts are used to their maximum safe capacity. Survey work is under way and has been completed in many cases so that we can understand the safe socially distanced capacity in those 168 open courts to make sure we use it fully, but the herculean national effort continues.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Transport)

There was already a huge backlog of Crown court cases before the coronavirus outbreak. My concern is that many people will be remanded in custody without having been convicted of any offences. Technically they are innocent until proven guilty. What impact has the outbreak had on the time they are having to spend time remanded in custody without having been convicted of an offence? Does he have numbers?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Custody limits do still apply as they did before, and I know that as judges make their individual listing decisions, they have regard to custody time limits approaching. I imagine that individual judges as a matter of practice would seek to prioritise cases where custody time limits are being approached. Where someone has been convicted but awaits sentence, we have been working very actively with the judiciary to prioritise having those cases heard, because if upon sentence there is not a custodial sentence, obviously the person is then free to go. Those cases are being prioritised through the system, but in particular by judges in the way they take their listing decisions.