Nottinghamshire courts backlog ‘creating burden’ on victims, families and councils

Nottingham Magistrates' Court.
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner wants to set up a county-specific criminal justice board to help manage a backlog in the county’s court system.

Caroline Henry (Con) told members of the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Panel the current criminal justice assurance board is done on a regional basis.

But Mrs Henry told the panel she wishes to bring this closer to Nottinghamshire. This will allow, she says, for a better understanding of the current backlog and opportunities for improvement.

The panel was told the existing backlog is causing issues of witness and victim management, leading to more difficult prosecutions for the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

This burden was eased partly by increased capacity in April this year, including at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.

It followed the opening of a ‘Nightingale’ temporary court in March at the Mercure Hotel, in Carrington, to address further backlogs in the system.

Mrs Henry told the meeting a “trail blitz” is also planned for November to tackle an issue she says had been increasing before the pandemic.

Speaking on the new assurance board, she said: “This will help me and you to gain a better understanding of our local issues, challenges and performance.

“I’m also looking for opportunities to get involved with multi-agency court observation sessions, to help develop a better understanding of areas for improvement.”

She adds it will allow board members and Mrs Henry to “hold them [the CPS] to account, calling for more transparency on the latest with the backlog.”

She added: “At the moment I can have conversations [with the CPS] but I can’t hold them to account.”

Her assurance came before an issue was raised by Councillor Michael Edwards (Lab), Nottingham City Council’s representative, about the backlog in family courts.

He told the committee the “burden” of a backlog in the family courts system is causing the council to increase spending on children’s services “around £1 million a month”.

He added: “All kinds of other council services are having to perform at [fewer] levels of establishment than was envisaged.

“If people have got influence with people who can actually get something done about this, to get it sorted, we need to push on, because it’s a very serious matter for the city council and we desperately need this backlog sorting out.”

Responding, Mrs Henry added: “I had a meeting earlier this week with police and crime commissioner colleagues, it is such a national issue, and we’re all pushing [for an end to the backlog].”

Mrs Henry requested one member of the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Panel should be represented on the new board, if it is created.

This matter will be taken for discussion at a later date.

More detail on Mrs Henry’s plans for the criminal justice board, and plans to address the backlog, are expected in her Police and Crime Plan in November.

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