Magistrates’ courts face a backlog of over 480,000 cases, according to new figures laying bare the devastating impact of coronavirus on criminal justice. The figures were released as ministers prepare to announce the first emergency ‘Blackstone courts’ where cases can be held observing social distancing rules. 

According to preliminary government data, the number of outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts increased by 22% to 484,000 between the week ending 8 March and 17 May. Outstanding cases had already risen by 11% between January and March, reaching levels last seen in 2015.

Meanwhile, the backlog in the Crown court stands at around 41,000 cases, up from 37,434 in December.