Magistrates warn the criminal justice system is ‘on the cusp’ of breaking down

Magistrates have warned that the criminal justice system is “on the cusp” of breaking down as a result of growing delays, court closures and funding cuts.

Cases heard in the magistrates' courts currently take 149 days on average to complete, which is a week longer than they took four years ago.

Corby has some of the slowest courts in England, taking 108 days on average to deal with cases. This, the court’s bench chairman Terry Knights warned, could be causing some cases to collapse, letting the guilty walk free. “I fear we are right on the cusp of things suddenly starting to unravel. The whole court system is Dickensian,” he said.

“At the end of the day some of the witnesses and some of the victims say ‘I can't be bothered with this’ - and they don't turn up and therefore the case falls apart. Justice isn't done.”

In July, the government announced 57 magistrates courts and two crown courts would close in the wake of a 30 per cent budget cut since 2010, which has seen HM Courts and Tribunals Service funding cut from £1.5bn to £1bn.

The Ministry of Justice said new technology would speed up courts.