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More than half the courtrooms at Snaresbrook Crown Court 'doing absolutely nothing', leading barrister claims

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 August 2019

Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Archant

Snaresbrook Crown Court has one of the worst proportions of empty courtrooms in the country according to research published this week.

According to a study carried out by Jonathan Dunne, a Nottingham-based criminal barrister at KCH Garden Square chambers, 127 rooms out of 260 in 34 crown courts across the country were "sat idle" on Monday morning (August 19) - that amounts to 48.8pc.

But at Snaresbrook Crown Court in Hollybush Hill 11 of the 20 available courtrooms (55pc) had no proceedings listed.

And that's despite lawyers claiming they have never faced such a vast backlog of cases needing to be heard.

Mr Dunne compiled a list with the help of contributions from other lawyers which he says indicated how many rooms in each crown court were "doing absolutely nothing".

The news comes just days after government figures showed the number of people being prosecuted or handed out-of-court disposals is at its lowest since records began, while more offences are being reported to police.

Mr Dunne said on Twitter: "Across 34 Crown Court centres, there are 127 court rooms out of 260, doing absolutely nothing this morning.

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"There are thousands of cases backed up, re-listed and delayed. Action has got to start matching the spin."

In his list he named just two crown courts which were being "fully utilised" - Chester and Southampton.

He said nine out of 18 rooms in the Central Criminal Court - known as the Old Bailey - were empty and nothing was happening at all in Lancaster's one court room.

But a Courts and Tribunals spokeswoman insisted there was not an issue with the current court system.

She said: "There is no shortage of judges in the crown court and sitting day requirements and waiting times are reviewed throughout the year, with additional recorders deployed according to demand.

"Last year saw a 12pc reduction in crown court trial cases and the allocation of sitting days reflects this.

"Waiting times for these cases are the shortest since 2014."

Each year, forecasts are made to predict the number of cases expected to make it to court and sitting days are allocated to reflect this.

The number of trial cases in-hand at crown courts is the lowest since 2000 (24,777) and waiting times are the shortest since 2014 (18.7 weeks from first hearing to trial), according to the Ministry of Justice.

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