West Yorkshire’s PCC responding to the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection on the impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System
19th January 2021
The report found that all four of Her Majesty’s Justice Chief Inspectors have united to express “grave concerns” about the potential long-term impact of Covid-19-related court backlogs on the criminal justice system across England and Wales.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “The findings of these inspection reports sadly come as little surprise, with the key issues which are highlighted. Clearly, the backlog in our courts is a huge concern, and the way this impacts on all those involved, in particular those victims and witnesses affected. In West Yorkshire we have worked incredibly hard as a partnership to develop solutions and respond as swiftly as possible, and I am heartened to say that through our Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), which I chair, we have been able to deliver on some innovative work in both our Crown and Magistrates courts, which has put us ahead of most places in England and Wales.
“It’s also right that key references are made to the impact of the pandemic on those both in custody and beyond, and how their wellbeing, and subsequent rehabilitation, is affected now and in the future. In West Yorkshire, we continue to work in strong partnership to address issues throughout the justice journey, working closely with our Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to develop a family and inter-generational approach for example.
“Finding new and innovative ways to achieve good justice outcomes, needs to be the key to effective future working, including use of Remote Links, such as those available through our Victims Hubs and our new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) opened last year. In addition, we have recently launched our Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme which enables certain offenders to address and change their negative behaviour, whilst victims are supported. Initiatives such as this, alongside Restorative Justice services, and our Chance to Change programme for young people, ultimately reduce the amount of people entering the court system, whilst offering diversionary activity, so that people who have committed certain offences, can be supported away from further offending and criminalisation.
“There is no doubt however that our justice system as a whole, requires proper Government investment and further reform, and we need to build on some of the things developed during the pandemic to ensure that we never allow such a backlog to occur again. Whilst it’s been good locally to be able to work closely with colleagues from the Courts, Crown Prosecution Service, Police, Probation, victims services and our Judiciary, it’s very clear there are challenges ahead. I am keen that these reports add to the calls that I and others have been making to Government Ministers at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice for many months throughout Covid-19, for the need of a more urgent and co-ordinated response to tackling the courts backlog crisis nationally.”