John Campion is calling for urgent action to prevent a two month backlog of court hearings in West Mercia turning into a crisis within the criminal justice system.
More than 1,200 cases are currently outstanding in West Mercia as very few trials are being heard due to Coronavirus. This is resulting in victims facing a longer wait for justice, and their associated anxiety and trauma being prolonged. With no clear plans in place for restoring court hearings that backlog only continues to increase.
The Police and Crime Commissioner allocated funding and pressed for virtual court hearings to be introduced in April, with some rolled out early to combat the issues around Covid-19. These virtual hearings have shown the situation can be improved, but there is much more that could be done.
John Campion said: “Covid restrictions in our courts are not the issue. The problem is the grinding halt the criminal justice system has come to. If urgent action to halt the backlog isn’t taken soon there is no telling how long it might take to put right the damage done”.
“Action must be taken to, at the very least, minimise the impact of Coronavirus and ensure access to justice continues. Victims want to move forward and recover. Part of that requires a justice system that works for them.”
“There are opportunities here as well though. I have introduced digital solutions in West Mercia which have proven to work. Things like this could provide part of the answer now and offer benefits for the future. I have also increased capacity in victim services, made offers to work with partners and supported innovation. I am committed to doing what I can, but others need to step forward as well. The system as a whole needs to organise a fast, effective, co-ordinated response to avert a crisis in our ability to uphold the laws of our land.”