Northampton takes six months longer to jail criminals than rest of UK
Northampton Crown Court is six months behind the rest of the country in its backlog of cases.
Latest UK figures show that judges are able to conclude cases on average almost 19 months after the crime was committed. But at Northampton Crown Court, the average is more than two years.
Voice, the Northamptonshire victims' service, said the long waits take their toll on many of their 10,000 clients a year and their loved ones.
Fiona Campbell, CEO of Voice, said: "We see first-hand how lengthy cases place even greater stress on individuals who have had to go through the criminal justice system through no fault of their own.
"This includes both victims and witnesses of crime, as well as family and friends of those affected.
“Voice would welcome anything that could speed up this process so that those affected by crime can move-on with their lives as swiftly as possible.”
Although taking on average 54 weeks, Northamptonshire's police force and the Crown Prosecution Service seem to be progressing crown court cases as quickly as their equivalents elsewhere.
And the length of time between the case being laid and the first hearing is about two weeks longer than the rest of the UK.
But the real problem for Northamptonshire comes between the first hearing at Northampton Crown Court and the case outcome, which takes 23 weeks longer than the UK average.
A spokesman for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said one reason for the delays could be the number of ongoing murder cases in Northampton, which currently number four, or sexual offences cases.
He said: “Cases which have a time limit for holding an accused person in custody – such as murder cases – must be heard as a priority and the larger volume of these trials at Northampton Crown Court has created a backlog of bail cases waiting to be heard.
“The court is working hard to reduce this by diverting some cases to Leicester Crown Court.”
Custody time limits are intended to safeguard unconvicted defendants by ensuring they are not held in pre-trial custody for an excessive period of time - which would be an injustice if they are later found to be innnocent.
These time-limited cases are heard ahead of bail cases where a defendant is not in custody.
The types of custody time limited cases include those for murder and sexual offences.
Voice is a free, confidential support service for anyone affected by crime in Northamptonshire. For support visit www,voicenorthants.org or call 0300 303 1965.