IN Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent budget announcement, he unveiled £2.2billion of funding for a criminal justice system which is, by many accounts, on its knees.

The cash will include almost £500million over the next three years to reduce the huge backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with by the courts.

But Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, called the funding “window dressing for the many thousands of victims of crime”.

It is not just victims and witnesses who are now being left to wait years for justice, it is defendants too.

While living in a country which proclaims they are innocent until proven guilty, defendants are being left to wait years to face trial, their fates left hanging over their heads.

Recently, the Gazette covered the plea hearing of Shane Errington, 28, who appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court to deny a charge of racially-aggravated harassment.

The offence is alleged to have been committed between March 29 and December 29 last year.

Errington, of Coppins Road, Clacton, was released on bail, but his trial was listed for September 5 next year.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has unveiled eye-catching measures as part of his bid to tackle the backlog, including opening a second “super courtroom” to tackle gang trials involving large numbers of defendants.

He has also talked about introducing “justice scorecards”, which will track performance of all parts of the justice system.

Criminal defence solicitor Caroline Woodley, of Colchester-based OBW Law, thinks the system is broken.

She said the criminal justice system had battled “chronic underfunding” for years.

“The crown court backlog is not just due to the ongoing pandemic and it is misleading for the Government to report that this is the root cause of it,” she said.

“There have been cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“We very much doubt that ‘justice scorecards’ are going to improve the backlog without additional funding in the system.

Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab awaits Prime Minister Boris Johnsons keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Wednesday October 6, 2021.

Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab awaits Prime Minister Boris Johnson's keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Wednesday October 6, 2021.

“This is what we have been told Dominic Raab will do to fix the problem and will be introduced by the end of the year.

“Estimates from Crest Advisory and Crown Prosecution Service inspectors are saying that it will take ten years to resolve the backlog.

“Naming and shaming courts with significant delay is not going to actually do anything to help clear the backlog. Raab is the eighth Lord Chancellor since 2010.

“What is needed is someone robust in the role that will make a case to the Treasury for funding to solve the continuing crisis.

“Instead what we have is a conveyor belt of politicians seeing out their time before a more attractive post in the future becomes available.

“As many practitioners will say, we challenge anyone to spend a day in a criminal court and not leave thinking the system is broken.”

By the end of June, official figures indicated there were record highs of nearly 61,000 outstanding crown court cases and more than 364,000 in magistrates’ court ones.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Last month’s spending review secured our largest funding increase in more than a decade.

“This included half a billion pounds to tackle the vast and unprecedented impact of the pandemic, reduce backlogs and deliver speedier justice.

“As well as measures taken to drive recovery, our scorecards will improve transparency and help address performance issues head-on.”