The Law Society said the high proportion of ineffective trials across England and Wales will cause ‘unacceptable’ delays for victims and warned government underfunding is a key cause.
Ministry of Justice figures show there were 415 trials listed at Nottingham Crown Court in 2021.
Of them, 29 per cent were classed as ineffective, meaning they had to be adjourned to a later date, up from 15 per cent the year before, and the most since records began in 2010.
Trials can be labelled as ineffective for reasons including the defence or prosecution not being ready, witnesses being absent, or ‘overlisting’, which means some cases will only be heard if court time becomes available.
A further 34 per cent of Nottingham Crown Court trials last year were cracked, when the Crown Prosecution Service drops the case or the defendant pleads guilty, while 37 per cent were effective, meaning they went ahead as planned.
Of the 21,805 Crown Court trials across England and Wales last year, just 48 per cent were effective, the lowest proportion in a decade.
Meanwhile, the proportion of ineffective trials rose to 23 per cent, the most since comparable records began in 2010.
The Law Society said victims are facing are ‘unacceptable’ delays and some are being forced to wait years for justice, while potentially innocent defendants are also left in limbo.
Stephanie Boyce, society president, said the coronavirus pandemic is one factor, but lack of capacity in the system is another.
She said: “Decades of underfunding and cuts mean there aren’t enough judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers left to cover the huge backlog.
“We will no longer have a criminal justice system worthy of the name, unless the Government changes tack urgently.”
Of the 119 ineffective trials at Nottingham Crown Court last year, 42 involved alleged violent offences, the most common type. This was followed by sexual offences, at 19, and drug offences, 15.
The MoJ said it is investing almost £500 million in court recovery.
An MoJ spokeswoman said: “While the unprecedented impact of the pandemic has led to large numbers of court staff and counsel falling ill or being forced to self-isolate, our decisive action has kept justice moving.”