Yet, while the judiciary has been forced by circumstances to adapt to new ways of working, there has been a sharp 18 per cent increase in the number of cases waiting a year to reach the courts.
This now means, according to the Ministry of Justice, that nearly 9,500 cases have been left outstanding for more than 12 months – a very unjust state of affairs. The fact that the MoJ accepts that the clock cannot be turned back, and that more sittings will be held remotely when there is not a requirement for defendants, barristers, victims and witnesses to all be present.
There’s also a strong argument to be made for expanding the number of so-called Nightingale courts if the criminal justice system is in a position to handle a larger volume of cases than at present. And it comes down to this timeless legal maxim – ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ – that those running the courts now need to recognise. These delays are not in the public interest. They perturb victims; testimony of eye-witnesses can become more hazy with the passage of times – and the wrongly accused can also face untold anguish before clearing their names.
Yet there’s one final point to be made as The Yorkshire Post calls on the judiciary to show greater urgency – open justice, another timeless principle, also demands total transparency, with victims in particular kept informed about the progress of cases, and the media given digital access to cases, and transcripts, to assist with the reporting of proceedings.
That such matters do still appear to be open to so much question is a depressing indictment on the mismanagement of the courts system from pre-Covid to post-pandemic.
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