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Ministry of Justice figures show scale of backlog facing Suffolk Crown and Magistrates' Courts




Courts in Suffolk are looking to technology to work through a backlog of thousands of cases.

Data for quarter three of 2020, the latest statistics published, show there were 5,200 outstanding cases in the county’s magistrates courts and 777 at the higher crown courts.

For both Ipswich-based courts, the backlog in cases has almost doubled from the same period in 2019 due to the pandemic.

Ipswich Magistrates' Court faces a backlog of cases. Some hearings could be held elsewhere.
Ipswich Magistrates' Court faces a backlog of cases. Some hearings could be held elsewhere.

It means victims and defendants are waiting months or, in some cases, over a year to hear results.

A spokesman for the Department for Justice said that video and telephone enabled hearings have been rolled out across the country as a matter of priority. This also includes using teleconferencing and videoconferencing technologies.

“The Government is investing £450million to deliver speedier justice and this is already yielding results, with the magistrates’ backlog falling, while the number of cases being dealt with in the crown court reached pre-pandemic levels last month.”

In Ipswich, quarter three of 2019 saw 2,677 and 425 cases outstanding in magistrates’ and crown court respectively.

Around three fifths of the magistrates’ court related backlog relates to driving offences. In crown courts, the highest number of outstanding cases related to offences of violence (185) and drugs (180).

As well as introducing the possibility for more would-be attendees to access a hearing remotely, the justice department is also opening ‘Nightingale’ courts. This can see crown court rooms serving to hear magistrates’ court hearings.

The spokesman added: “We have taken swift and unprecedented action to keep the justice system moving by increasing video technology, opening 37 more Nightingale courtrooms and prioritising urgent cases.”

For more news from Suffolk courts, visit our crime section.