The Treasury refused to bankroll the creation of an extra 33 Nightingale courtrooms despite the backlog of criminal trials soaring to record levels, it has been revealed.

The Ministry of Justice drew up plans earlier this year to open up a new series of ad-hoc courts to help tackle the justice crisis, as victims, witnesses, and defendants faced lengthy delays with rape and sexual assault cases being “acutely affected”.

But despite the dire position, officials had to scale back their ambitions after being told by the Treasury that funding would not be provided for the new courtrooms.

The internal government wrangling was revealed in a National Audit Office (NAO) report on the backlog in the criminal courts, which warned it could take several years to bring the situation back to pre-pandemic levels. The government deliberately slashed court sitting days in 2019, allowing the backlog of case in the crown courts of England and Wales to increase by almost a quarter. The pandemic then caused the temporary shutdown of jury trials, and ongoing capacity issues have driven the backlog up to more than 60,000.

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