Court closures ‘stressing out’ victims and witnesses, report says

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Victims and witnesses are anesthetizing unnecessary pressure and stress thanks to crown court sitting days being cut by the govt, a report says.

Barristers who work across the southwest on the Western Circuit said during a report sitting days fell by 15% last year, causing major delays to trials.

Leader of the Western Circuit, Kate Brunner QC said: “Currently crime is rising but courts are sitting empty.”

HM Courts and Tribunals Service says in November it allocated 700 extra days.

‘Shameful, cynical’
A sitting day is when a court opens for trials, hearings and case management. they need to be been cut by almost 15%, from 97,400 in 2018-19 to 82,300 in 2019-20.

The Western Circuit represents barristers within the southwest, from Winchester to Gloucester and Truro.

She added that government failure to pay meant judges were still being paid to take a seat reception for ‘reading days’, while victims, defendants saw their trials being repeatedly adjourned.

“The Ministry of Justice chooses to spend what little money it’s on locking up a couple of people for a touch longer, instead of opening enough courtrooms in order that justice can actually be wiped out court.

“Shameful, cynical, weak on crime and a betrayal of all, including victims,” she said.Cases also are being moved to other courts, sometimes 100 miles away, at very short notice.

This left one prison taking a defendant to the incorrect court.

Chair of the Bar Council, Amanda Pinto QC said: “You’ve got all of the strain and therefore the impact of that on the witnesses, and in fact on the defendant.

“It could also be that he or she isn’t guilty but the time-lapse is extremely significant.”

Judges sitting at smaller two-court centers, like Gloucester and Taunton, also are burdened with the additional workload when one among them closes.

She added that the cuts were being felt national and more investment was needed.

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