Bolton’s criminal justice system is ‘at breaking point’ after the backlog of delayed cases grew to more than 500, including 20 alleged rapes.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that at the end of June this year there were 528 cases waiting to be heard at Bolton Crown Court, up from 476 in March.

This means that serious criminal cases including assaults, robbery, arson and even rape are sometimes not dealt with for months on end.

Bolton South East MP and former criminal barrister Yasmin Qureshi said: “Our justice system is, frankly, at breaking point, with barristers leaving the trade and many being forced into strike action by the direct actions of the Conservative Government.

“Couple this crisis with the impact of 12 years of cuts, it all point to one thing, managed decline of our justice under the Conservative government since 2010.”

The Bolton News: Barristers have been on strike in protest against low pay and cuts to legal aidBarristers have been on strike in protest against low pay and cuts to legal aid (Image: Newsquest)

Of the cases outstanding in Bolton at the end of June, 155 involved alleged violent attacks and 84 were for sex offences, including 20 alleged rapes.

Across England and Wales, 59,700 cases were yet to be concluded at the end of June, a rise of nearly three-quarters compared to June 2019, when 34,500 were outstanding.

Labour’s Ms Qureshi says that the government must act to properly fund the justice system and try and get it back in working order and says her party has plans to clear the backlog.

She said: “We’d introduce community policing hubs to provide a visible policing presence in our local communities and support victims, and we’d introduce fast track courts to clear the backlog for the most serious of cases.”

Cases have also been delayed amid the ongoing dispute between defence barristers and the government.

Over the last month barristers have been on all-out strike in protest against poor pay and years of cuts to the legal aid budget.

The Bolton News: Barrister Jennifer Devans-Tamakloe addressing fellow picketers Barrister Jennifer Devans-Tamakloe addressing fellow picketers (Image: Newsquest)

Law Society president Stephanie Boyce said: “The criminal justice system has been devastated by years of underfunding and cuts and there are not enough judges, barristers and solicitors to cover all the cases," she added.

“Trust in the system is in real jeopardy and a system collapse would embolden criminals.

“The UK Government is falling way short of addressing the crisis in the criminal justice system.

"You cannot fix the problems in the system unless you fund all parts of it effectively."

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But the government claims that it is already acting to reduce waiting times for criminal cases.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Restoring the swift access to justice victims deserve is our absolute priority and we are spending almost half a billion pounds to reduce wait times, as well as boosting funding for victim support to £460 million over the next three years.

“On top of this, the Government has deployed a range of measures, including unlimited sitting days, Nightingale courts and increasing magistrate sentencing powers, that has so far reduced the backlog in the Crown Court by over 2,000 from its pandemic-induced peak and seen magistrates cases return to pre-pandemic levels.”