The backlog in the criminal courts will continue to be an issue beyond 2024, a report by the National Audit Office (NOA) has found. Those who plead not guilty to sexual offences, robbery and possession of weapons are going to feel the impact the most, with waiting times for trials increasing significantly.

Criminal Courts Backlog – England and Wales

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact us for a free initial enquiry. We specialise in criminal defence law and can help you throughout proceedings, whether at the police station, trial or appeal. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The backlog in the courts system

Anyone who has had any interaction with the UK’s criminal courts lately will know that there is a huge backlog in cases. This problem pre-dated the pandemic, but the effects of Covid-19 only worsened the situation.

Now, the National Audit Office has published a report regarding waiting times in the criminal courts. The results are shocking. It found that:

  • There has been a 48% increase in the Crown Court backlog between March 2020 and June 2021, with 60,692 cases in that backlog.
  • There has been an increase of 302% in the number of cases that have to wait longer than a year, increasing from 2,830 to 11,379.
  • There has been an increase of 27% in the number of defendants held on remand.
  • The most significant increases in wait times are in London which has a 72% increase, closely followed by the West Midlands.
  • The number of sexual offence trials in the backlog rose by 71%, with the number of cases taking longer than a year rising by 435%.
  • Robbery and possession of weapons cases also saw relatively large increases in waiting times.

Are things likely to improve?

In the past financial year, the Court Service spent £63 million on its response to the pandemic. Thanks to the use of technology, adaptations to court buildings and temporary court rooms, capacity in the Crown Court increased by 30%. Going forward, it is estimated that a further £2.2 billion must be spent delivering the criminal justice action plan from 2022 to 2024.

Despite this, the size of the backlog by November 2024 is still anticipated to be between 48,000 and 52,000 cases. This means the court backlog could be between 17% and 27% higher than pre-pandemic levels. This is bad news for both defendants and victims, many of whom feel stuck in limbo until their case has ended.

Do We Need More Courts  – England and Wales

If you instruct us as your criminal defence lawyers, we will work to achieve a positive outcome as quickly as possible. We appreciate that delays in the court system are frustrating. We promise to keep you updated throughout your case, and to do everything we can to bring the matter to a swift and successful conclusion.

Have you been accused of a criminal offence? Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we’ll be in touch soon.