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Impact of coronavirus revealed in latest CPS performance data

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Prosecution data for the first quarter of 2020/21 - covering the coronavirus lockdown period - has today been published.

CPS figures show that while the number of suspects being referred and charged remained broadly stable, the volume of outstanding cases rose from 109,469 to just over 170,000.

Technology was used to enable remote hearings on urgent matters related to custody time limits and serious offences, with the rollout of new video software accelerated.

However, the number of cases being finalised (convicted and sentenced) fell from 107,497 the previous quarter to 41,508 between 1 April and 30 June.

This was largely due to the reduction in court capacity, with trials and sentencing hearings usually requiring the parties to attend in person.

The biggest impact was in magistrates’ court cases, with the CPS continuing to receive referrals from police at a time far fewer could be finalised.

The increase in the Crown Court caseload was smaller - from 45,268 to 47,566. However, the Q1 data covers a period where few cases were being referred up from magistrates’ courts - meaning a larger increase is likely to be reflected in the second quarter of this year.

The CPS’s transition to home-working for most of its staff in March meant the number of cases being charged fell only slightly on the previous quarter to 35,799.

Rebecca Lawrence, CPS Chief Executive Officer, said: “There is no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the CPS - particularly the number of prosecutions being finalised - as it has on the entire criminal justice system.

“However, our rapid adoption of technology during lockdown meant we were able to hold steady the number of cases being charged and conduct many more remote hearings than would otherwise have been possible.

“Our innovative response to the pandemic was praised as a ‘catalyst for change’ in a recent inspectorate report and I would like to thank all our staff who played an essential but unsung role in keeping cases moving in extraordinary circumstances.

“All of our efforts are now focused on recovery and we are working closely with partners across the criminal justice system to achieve this.”

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