Kris Brown, Liberal Democrat candidate for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, has exclusively revealed that there are over 9,000 delayed criminal court cases in Merseyside. With a large number of hearings delayed because of Covid-19.
In response, the government has set up a series of pop up courts to deal with the backlog, including one at St George's Hall in Liverpool. However, this is primarily for dealing with cases relating to criminal gangs.
Kris Brown said: "This affects everyone, particularly the victims of crime who are eagerly awaiting justice.
"The new pop up sites are welcome, but they only take in a small part of the backlog. My FOI request only relates to criminal court delays. There will be much more if you include other areas.
"This is an urgent situation to needs addressing, or people will be waiting a very long time for justice. We need a 'war time approach' with smaller pop ups available and smaller courts to get through cases quickly but fairly."
The answers to the Freedom of Information request submitted by Councillor Kris Brown to the Ministry of Justice can be found below.
Dear Mr Brown
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request – 201201007 – linked to 201030024
Thank you for your request, which was partially responded to on 29 January 2021, in which you asked for the following information from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ):
- How many court cases have been delayed in Merseyside since March 2020 and the outbreak of Covid-19?
- How many outstanding court cases in Merseyside were there pre-lockdown that have not been heard?
Clarification – relates to Crime jurisdiction only.
Your request has been handled under the FOIA. My apologies for the delay in providing this response.
I should initially advise you that MoJ will not currently release data regarding these matters beyond 30 September 2020.
Any data later than that relating to these matters is currently exempt from disclosure under Section 44 of FOIA as contributing to data to be published by MoJ at some time in the future.
Section 44(1)(a) of the FOIA refers to prohibitions on disclosure ‘by or under any enactment’ of the FOIA. In this case, the information you are seeking is prohibited by the Statistics and Registration Services (SRS) Act 2007 and the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008.
Data you have requested is a subset of the MoJ Criminal data held in its final form which we routinely publish. Information for the period in question is planned for publication at a date to be announced. As such we are required to consider your request in a manner compliant with the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 further to sections 11 and 13 of the (SRS Act 2007).
The MoJ is obliged under section 13 of the SRS Act to continue to comply with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics (the Code) for statistics designated as National Statistics. Section 11(3) of the SRS Act regards the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order as being included in the Code. Protocol 2 of the Code reflects the requirements of the Pre-Release Access to Statistics Order. Specifically, it requires producers of official statistics to ensure that no indication of the substance of a statistical report is made public or given to the media or any other party not recorded as eligible for access prior to publication. I can confirm that the MoJ does publish information related to these matters as part of National Statistics. Therefore, to now disclose it as part of your FOI request, will violate the provisions of section 13 of the SRS Act and the Pre-Release Access Order to Official Statistics 2008 and as such engages the exemption under section 44(1)(a) of the FOIA.
Section 44 is an absolute exemption and does not require a public interest test.
Within the above restrictions, I can tell you that we have interpreted these questions as asking for:
- The number of Crown and Magistrates Courts cases in Merseyside adjourned at least once due to any reason between 23 March 2020 and the 30 September 2020.
- The total number of Crown and Magistrates Courts cases that were not closed on 23 March 2020 that were still not complete at 30 September 2020.
I can confirm that the MoJ holds the information that you have requested and I have provided it below.
Regarding Question (1) In the Merseyside Magistrates Courts between 23 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 there were 9694 cases adjourned at least once. The courts included are Liverpool Magistrates, Liverpool City and Youth Courts, Knowsley, St Helens Magistrates' Court; Sefton Magistrates' Courts, Wirral Magistrates' Court.
In the Merseyside Crown Court at Liverpool there were:
Adjourned (cases with at least one recorded adjournment)
Appeals – 25
Sentences – 286
Trials – 1549
Total – 1860
Regarding Question (2) In the Merseyside Magistrates Courts (as above) there were 8162 cases not closed on 23 March 2020 that were still not complete as at the 30th September 2020.
In the Merseyside Crown Court at Liverpool there were:
Outstanding cases at 30/09/20 (of those o/s on 23/03/20)
Appeals – 7
Sentences – 28
Trials – 404
Total – 439
Notes regarding the above data
- Data are taken from a live management information system and can change over time.
- Data are management information and are not subject to the same level of checks as official statistics.
- The data provided is the most recent available and for that reason might differ slightly from any previously published information.
- Data has not been cross referenced with case files.
- Although care is taken when processing and analysing the data, the details are subject to inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale case management system and is the best data that is available.
If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to request an internal review by responding in writing to one of the addresses below within two months of the date of this response.
Disclosure Team, Ministry of Justice
You do have the right to ask the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate any aspect of your complaint. However, please note that the ICO is likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted before beginning their investigation.
Analysis and Performance Division, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).