To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment he has made of the impact of the court backlog on the wellbeing of victims of (a) sexual offences and (b) violent offences.
We recognise the impact the pandemic has had on timeliness in the Crown Court and the adverse impact this can have on victims. The Government is committed to continuing to work to reduce waiting times for victims, witnesses and other court users.
The outstanding caseload in the Crown Court has reduced from around 60,700 cases in June 2021 to around 58,300 cases at the end of April 2022.
Thanks to measures we are taking, by the end of March 2023, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases than we did pre-Covid. It is encouraging that latest data shows the average number of days for adult rape from CPS charge to the case being completed continued to fall, down by over 5 weeks, or 38 days (8.3 percent) since the peak in June 2021 – from 457 days, to 419 in October to December 2021.
On 16 June, we announced a pilot of enhanced specialist sexual violence support in the Crown Court. These court centres will be enabled with the technology to allow victims to give pre-recorded evidence, with court staff who have received trauma-informed training. Victims will also have access to Independent Sexual Violence Advisers – or ISVAs – to give them expert support and help guide them through the process.
We are also expanding pre-recorded cross-examination (Section 28) rollout to all Crown Court locations. this vital measure is now available in almost half of all Crown Court locations (37 locations) so victims don’t have to endure the glare of a live trial.
We are increasing MoJ funding for victims’ services to £192 million by 2024/25, more than quadruple the level in 2009/10, with £154 million of this committed for victim support on a multi-year basis. This will allow us to increase the number of Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisers by 300 to 1,000 and introduce new key services like the 24/7 support for victims of rape and sexual violence.
To allow for more cases to be heard more quickly, we have extended 30 Nightingale courtrooms beyond the end of March 2022 and removed the limit on the number of sitting days the Crown Court can sit this financial year.
The listing of cases is a judicial function and judges continue to work to prioritise cases involving vulnerable complainants and witnesses, such as serious sex cases.