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Data gaps remain in Crown Court dashboard, says NAO


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have improved the data and analysis on Crown Court services, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

But the report, Reducing the backlog in the Crown Court, adds that there are still gaps that need to be filled in the data dashboard used to support the effort.

The issue has been identified among those affecting the MoJ’s ambition to sharply reduce the caseload by March of next year, which the NAO says is now achievable.

The report says there has been progress in improving the data to support the effort in recent years, notably that HMCTS has produced a Crown Court dashboard, pulling together data from the Common Platform case management system and legacy platforms. It is now providing real time data on factors such as the number of case receipts and trial duration, and being used for insights to support cross-system groups and improve the efficiency of courts.

But there are gaps, such as demographic data on service users and information on early pleas, and some issues with data quality, that HMCTS is reported to be working on.

Reduction target

The ministry has aimed to reduce the backlog of 67,573 cases to 53,000 by March 2025. But a range of issues are hindering the effort, including: a shortage of legal professionals working in criminal law; high rates of ineffective trials; an increase in complex cases such as adult rape; and cases delayed by COVID-19 and the criminal defence barristers’ industrial action. The condition of the Crown Court estate may in future be a barrier to reducing the backlog.

The NAO also found that the actual levels of incoming and completed cases have been consistently lower than MoJ forecast at the 2021 Spending Review.

It added that the ministry cannot put a figure on how much has been spent on addressing the backlog because additional funding is added to operational budgets across the criminal justice system and is not separately monitored.

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