Dartford MP calls on the Government to prioritise domestic violence cases in court backlog

Dartford MP, Gareth Johnson, has asked the Government to prioritise domestic violence cases in court to help the victims of this crime.  

Speaking during an urgent question in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: “It is not surprising this pandemic has caused delays in court cases right around the world, but will my Honourable Friend ensure that delays to domestic violence cases are prioritised, as he knows, often pressure grows on victims as the cases progresses and too often their resolve diminishes and they feel unable to continue supporting the case.”  

In response Chris Philp MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice said: “My Honourable Friend makes an extremely good point. We are very concerned about these cases and that is why we are spending a great deal of extra money, next year an additional £32million to help protect victims of witnesses, particularly of awful cases like domestic violence and rape.  

As I mentioned the Judiciary have already prioritised domestic violence protection orders in the Magistrates’ Court, and I know, although listing is a judicial function, I do know that Judges are prioritising very serious cases of rape and of domestic violence to make sure those cases get heard quickly for the reason my Honourable Friend, the member for Dartford, has mentioned.   

But in addition to that we have rolled out Section 28 video evidence provisions, I think it was in November of last year just a couple of months ago, to make sure vulnerable witnesses can give evidence by video quickly, well in advance of the substantive hearing, to make sure some of these issues to do with victim attrition that the member for Dartford mentions are addressed quickly and as far as they possibly can be.”  

In North Kent Local Justice Area, in the third quarter of 2020, there were 5,378 outstanding cases in the Magistrates’ Court, this is up from 3,856 for the same period in 2019.  

In Kent, Crown Court figures show in the third quarter of 2020, there were 1444 outstanding cases, this was up from 881 in the same period in 2019.  

Following the question, Mr Johnson said: “These figures highlight the extent of the backlog we are facing.  I used to work in the Court Service and delays in court cases are nothing new but the pandemic has made the situation worse. The UK was the first country in the world to recommence jury trials but we still need to continue doing everything we can to hear cases as quickly as possible and ensure victims of crime are fully supported.”