Newly published figures show a 3,000 case backlog at Wiltshire’s criminal courts.

The Ministry of Justice statistics reveal 2,679 cases at the county’s magistrates’ courts that are yet to be resolved, including 883 trials and 930 motoring cases.

Salisbury Crown Court has a 79 case backlog.

At Swindon Crown Court at the end of the first quarter of 2020 there were 154 cases outstanding on the court’s books – down from a high of 244 in 2015.

They include 39 drugs cases, 33 violent crimes, 19 sexual offences and 10 robberies.

The outstanding cases at Wiltshire magistrates' court at the end of quarter one (January to March) Data: Ministry of Justice 

Outstanding cases at Swindon Crown Court at the end of quarter one Data: Ministry of Justice

Nationally, there is a backlog of half a million cases in the criminal courts.

Justice Secretary MP Robert Buckland has floated the idea of changing the law to enable a judge sitting alongside two magistrates to try less serious cases in the crown court in an effort to shift the backlog exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Jury trials have been suspended in most courts during the coronavirus lockdown. In Bristol, where trials resumed last year, judges are reluctant to hold cases involving multiple defendants as the courtrooms are not large enough to seat the number of lawyers and guards required – while also complying with social distancing rules. Swindon Crown Court is yet to hold a jury trial.

Salisbury Journal:

Bristol Crown Court 

Suggestions that juries could be replaced with a judge and magistrates have been met with anger from the legal profession. Today, senior barristers from across the country – including Western Circuit leader Kate Brunner QC – called for ministers to set up pop-up courts similar to the Nightingale hospitals that would be large enough to host jury trials.

In a letter to The Times, the six circuit leaders wrote: “The solution to a backlog of criminal trials, which has built up over decades of underfunding, is proper funding.

“There is no need to replace jury trials, which are the only part of the criminal justice system which is representative of the population and is fair to BAME defendants.”

Salisbury Journal:

Kate Brunner QC, leader of the Western Circuit

An HMCTS spokesman said this week: "We have worked closely with the judiciary to safely continue thousands of hearings during the pandemic

"This includes prioritising urgent cases, such as those involving domestic abuse, swiftly increasing our capacity to hear cases remotely, and resuming jury trials so that justice can continue to be done.

"This data reflects the unprecedented circumstances facing the court system and we will continue to work on further measures to ensure justice is delivered."