The number of trials pending at Lincoln Crown Court has risen by more than 40% over the past year as bosses look to set up a new domestic abuse court in a bid to speed up some magistrate cases.
A report by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones will tell a meeting of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel next Friday that at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 there were 296 crown court trials pending, but by May 31, 2021 there were 429.
“Reducing this number remains a challenge… [we] are providing more court space out of county to assist with hearings and reducing the number of Lincolnshire cases,” said the report.
He will say, however, that magistrates’ court case numbers continue to fall, sitting at 1,867 as of May 31, with a planned “trial blitz” in October.
He said influencing the work of the higher court was not as easy to do “due to the nature and position of trials” but said they were “regularly prioritised”.
However, he said: “These changes and delays increase anxiety for victims and witnesses and may impact on their willingness to continue to support a prosecution.”
“Lincolnshire is performing well in this area with significantly lower cases lost for witness reasons than the national average,” he added, but said they were looking at the impact on people and working with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
This includes £39,400 Ministry of Justice funding, aimed at supporting victims and witnesses.
It comes as Lincolnshire Police and the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner are talking to probation services and the Crown Prosecution Services in a bid to pilot a “Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Court” at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court.
The new initiative would focus solely on one type of offence or offender in a bid to speed up case processing and thereby reduce caseload.
A team, that may be led by a judge, would do this by focusing on addressing underlying issues behind domestic violence, such as addictions and mental health, in a bid to reduce and prevent reoffending.
The report said this would increase trial capacity “for more serious crimes”.