SENIOR barristers in the west of England have warned the brakes have been put on justice, with victims in some cases waiting two years to see their abusers face justice.

In a frank evaluation of court delays across the south west, leader of the Western Circuit Kate Brunner QC said yesterday: “Justice delayed is unquestionably justice denied.”

The report by the Western Circuit, which represents barristers in the south west, warned that delays were rocketing as civil servants cut court staff and the number of days on which judges could sit and hear cases.

Ms Brunner and report authors Anna Midgley and Holly Rust referred to Ministry of Justice claims that the number of cases sent to the crown court was falling: “ A reduction in the amount of work coming into the crown court was an ideal opportunity to reduce the delay which victims and others face in their cases coming to trial.

“That has not happened. It is taking longer and longer for victims of crime to find justice, and for the wrongly accused to be released.

“In the last five years the brakes have been put on the wheels of justice: a victim of crime in the south west in 2019 had to wait on average 18 months after the offence before their case was concluded in the crown court and significantly longer if the case went to trial. That was about four months longer than they would have had to wait in 2014.”

One unnamed barrister was reported saying the effect of slashed sitting days at Gloucester and Swindon crown courts had been catastrophic: “There is the effect on counsel’s income. Bail trials are routinely being listed five, six or seven months after a plea and trial preparation hearing.

“Adjournments on account of lack of court time are becoming more frequent and it is now the norm for even simple trials to take place 18 months to two years after the event.”

Barristers and solicitors in Swindon say cuts to the legal aid budget – with it no longer covering many family and housing disputes - have reduced people’s ability to access justice.

Asked if the system was now less just than when he started practising, one senior lawyer yesterday looked affronted and simply shook his head.

A government spokesman said: “We keep sitting days under constant review and in November 2019 we allocated an extra 700 crown court sitting days nationally for the remainder of 2019/20 in response to an increase in cases.

“Since 2014, the number of outstanding cases at the crown court has decreased by around 40 per cent with waiting times for these at their lowest ever.”