Violent offenders, paedophiles and homophobic assailants are among those who have avoided prison sentences after their cases were affected by long delays in the criminal justice system, ministers are being warned. A long-running court backlog has been exacerbated by Covid, with some cases delayed for years. However, lawyers are warning that there are now a number of cases in which delay has contributed to a lesser sentence.
The warnings have raised concerns that years of cuts to the courts system are now not only leaving victims and defendants in limbo for long periods, but also affecting the punishments being handed out. While delays have been caused by the pandemic, many lawyers believe years of cuts to the justice system in England and Wales are also to blame. Hundreds of courts have closed in the past decade, while judge sitting times have also declined. Under current sentencing guidelines, judges can consider delays in a case that are not the defendant’s fault as a mitigating factor. Defendants may have had a case hanging over them for a long time, or taken measures to rehabilitate since being charged.