Shortage of Judges Delaying Criminal Trials

Shortage of Judges Delaying Criminal Trials


Hundreds of criminal trials have been deferred at the last minute due to a shortage of crown court judges, prosecutors and defence counsel.

According to a review of official numbers by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), 280 severe crime cases were delayed at short notice in the last three months of last year because no prosecution or defence lawyer was available. In the previous quarter, from July to October, 96 trials were postponed due to a shortage of judges. In the same time period in 2020, four trials were cancelled due to there being no judges available.

The latest figures for cases cancelled due to a shortage of judges, according to the CBA, were at their highest level in 11 years of official data.

According to The Times, two instances of major sex offences have been repeatedly postponed due to a lack of resources.

Low legal aid rates and the consequences of the pandemic, according to the association, are to blame for the issues. The CBA says low pay levels are attracting fewer new barristers to criminal law. As the judicial pool is primarily made up of criminal barristers, the association argues that fewer criminal barristers means fewer applicants for the bench.

“The current crisis in the criminal justice system is the clear result of the government’s deliberate policy of underfunding,” stated the association’s chairman, Jo Sidhu QC.
The 2,500 members of the association are staging a work-to-rule strike in an attempt to persuade the Ministry of Justice to boost the recent salary raise for defence lawyers.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson stated “cases were postponed for a number of reasons, including judges and counsel falling ill or having to self-isolate due to the pandemic. All cases involved have since been heard or will be in due course.”


Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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