Top Oxford Crown Court judge speaks out as criminal cases delayed

Crown Court judges are instrumental in delivering justice. A robust but fair judiciary are the cornerstone of the criminal justice system of any civilised society. The efficient and quick disposal of cases is central. Recent delays in the disposal and hearing of cases has been heavily criticized by a senior judge, Gordon Risius, the honorary recorder of Oxford . He describes an “embarrassing” series of failures that led to hearings being delayed and canceled which compelled him to make such an observation. He also raised concerns for prisoners not being brought in custody from prison, “unnecessary” legal aid rules and “chaotic” court files. Addressing the court Judge Risius said: “A number of my cases today have been in a complete shambles and it is virtually impossible to do justice.”

A number of legal cases have been disrupted at Oxford Crown Court, some recent cases which were delayed include a suspected drug dealer who was not brought from HMP Bullingdon near Bicester for his trial, similarly the sentencing of a Defendant, for theft had to be postponed as he too could not be brought before the court. The probable reason noted by Judge Risius, behind this delay was that it appeared that the prisoner had not been put on the van to court by prison staff. The Prison Service spokesman conceded that it was due to an “administrative error” and said staff at HMP Bullingdon was looking into the matter. Another case, in which a male accused of fraud, also had to be adjourned apparently because his case had not been committed from Oxford Magistrates’ Court, and so he could not receive legal aid. In another a defendant had his sentence for voyeurism delayed because HMP Bullingdon had his mispelt his first name.

Such clerical and administrative errors add up to the already existing pressure on the courts Judge Risius strongly condemned such lapses as he noted with exasperation that “something is really going wrong with this court”.


A view from Criminal Barrister:-

His Honored Judge Risius’s observations are sadly not unique, nor are they confined to Oxford Crown Court or any particular part of the country. A crisis has long been looming in the criminal justice over the past few decades as a result of chronic under-funding, cuts to legal aid, problems with private companies contracted to bring defendants who are in custody to court. Restrictions in legal aid have meant that some defendants are unrepresented in court because they cannot afford a lawyer. It has also meant that there has been a decline in the quality of legal advice and representation in court because the poor rates of legal aid have forced many able criminal lawyers to quit the bar or the solicitor’s profession. It is feared that any plans to further privatise aspects of the criminal justice system, such as probation and offender rehabilitation services will.

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