To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent steps he has taken to tackle the increase in the number of cases being withdrawn as a result of court delays and case backlogs.
Recovering the courts from the impact of Covid is a key priority for this Government. We allocated over a quarter of a billion pounds on recovery last financial year, making court buildings safe, rolling out new technology for remote hearings, recruiting additional staff and opening Nightingale courtrooms. We are encouraged by the level of cases now flowing through the courts, with our most recently published data showing reductions in the Crown Court’s outstanding caseload.
We are now focused both on increasing capacity and maximising use of that which we already have. There is no limit on the number of days Crown Courts can sit this financial year and we are supporting temporary changes to court operating hours, where the local judge wants to use this, to hear more cases. The relaxing of social distancing means around 60 existing courtrooms in the Crown Court estate have been reopened, and we are extending our 32 Crown Nightingale courtrooms until April 2022.
In further attempts to prevent cases from being withdrawn, we have increased funding for victim support services, with £151 million this year, including £27 million to increase the number of independent advisors for sexual violence and domestic abuse victims by over 40 per cent. Beyond significant increases in funding to victims’ services, the Government has taken a range of actions to ensure that victims and witnesses receive the support they need.