This week’s blog could be entitled Bach on my Soapbox! I am astonished, disappointed and infuriated in equal measures that, once again, the Government has forgotten the East Midlands.
Last Sunday, plans for ‘Nightingale Courts’ were unveiled. This is part of a bid to try and tackle the backlog of cases waiting to heard at Court. After double-checking, twice; I came to the astonishing conclusion that I was right at first glance: the East Midlands was not on the list.
Nightingale Courts will be used primarily for non-custodial cases for crime, civil, family, and tribunal matters, leaving the usual courts for the Jury trials. Great news. But not for us.
I understand that around 1,800 cases are waiting to be heard in Crown Court and nearly 24,500 awaiting a Magistrates Court across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In our area the figures are 8,500 and 500 respectively.
How on earth can the Government justify its decision to prioritise other regions? I expected to see London well-catered for, but the selection criteria for the rest has me baffled.
The legal system is bursting at the seams. Locally, we have just as significant a backlog per capita as anywhere else; yet once again we are left to fend for ourselves. What kind of message does this send vulnerable victims who are being denied justice simply because of where they live?
As a former criminal law Barrister, Justice Minister and prior to this role, Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Legal Aid Minister, I have seen first hand the stress that victims and witnesses experience while waiting for their case to be heard. It’s not good enough.
The pandemic has exacerbated an existing crisis, and it will take much more than 10 special courts to undo the damage. If the Government is serious about delivering “speedier” justice for victims and helping the justice system to recover post-coronavirus, then it needs to act faster, tackle the whole problem and avoid further delays.
I am really concerned that these delays will further harm the very people the system is designed to protect. And if anyone asks me ‘Why?’, I have no ready answer. I could make an educated guess, but as yet, and once again, there has been no rationale given to us.
Alongside my colleagues in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire I will write to the decision makers to ask why the needs of victims and witnesses in East Midlands has been neglected. We will see if I get an answer.
Posted on Friday 24th July 2020