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Written Question
Coroners: Standards
Tuesday 2nd August 2022

Asked by: Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is a backlog for holding inquests as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and if so, how this varies across the regions of the country.

Answered by Lord Bellamy - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice)

The Coroner Statistics 2021: England and Wales, published on 12 May 2022, indicate that, on average in 2021, the time between the report of a death to the coroner and the completion of an inquest increased to 31 weeks (up from 27 weeks in 2020), although almost a third of coroner areas completed inquests within 24 weeks. Figures are also published by coroner area: for the Isle of Wight coroner area, the average time for completion of an inquest was 56 weeks (from 40 weeks in 2020).

Coroner services are locally based and funded and administered by the relevant local authorities. The Government recognises that local authorities have experienced a number of pressures as a result of the pandemic. During 2021, coroners dealt with both the impacts of the early stages of the pandemic and the ongoing effect of Covid, including a second lockdown and continued social distancing measures which, in particular, affected the ability to hold jury and other large and complex inquests.

We have provided £6.15 billion in unringfenced grant funding to local authorities in England to support the cost of pandemic pressures which could include additional costs incurred in the administration of coroner services. Funding for local authorities in Wales is a devolved matter. The Chief Coroner has issued guidance to coroners on how their services can best recover from the pandemic, including engagement with local authorities on any additional resources required. He is also undertaking a tour of all coroner areas to engage with them on their post-pandemic recovery plans.

In addition, we included a package of measures in the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022 to streamline coroners’ court processes and support the coronial system with post pandemic recovery plans.

The Government’s priority is to ensure that the bereaved remain at the heart of the coroner system. In January 2020, we published a revised Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People which provides support and information for the bereaved about what they should expect from coroners’ investigations and inquests, and includes information on sources of bereavement support. The Guide is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide.


Written Question
Coroners: Isle of Wight
Tuesday 2nd August 2022

Asked by: Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is a backlog for inquests in the Isle of Wight; and if so, what steps they are taking to clear that backlog.

Answered by Lord Bellamy - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice)

The Coroner Statistics 2021: England and Wales, published on 12 May 2022, indicate that, on average in 2021, the time between the report of a death to the coroner and the completion of an inquest increased to 31 weeks (up from 27 weeks in 2020), although almost a third of coroner areas completed inquests within 24 weeks. Figures are also published by coroner area: for the Isle of Wight coroner area, the average time for completion of an inquest was 56 weeks (from 40 weeks in 2020).

Coroner services are locally based and funded and administered by the relevant local authorities. The Government recognises that local authorities have experienced a number of pressures as a result of the pandemic. During 2021, coroners dealt with both the impacts of the early stages of the pandemic and the ongoing effect of Covid, including a second lockdown and continued social distancing measures which, in particular, affected the ability to hold jury and other large and complex inquests.

We have provided £6.15 billion in unringfenced grant funding to local authorities in England to support the cost of pandemic pressures which could include additional costs incurred in the administration of coroner services. Funding for local authorities in Wales is a devolved matter. The Chief Coroner has issued guidance to coroners on how their services can best recover from the pandemic, including engagement with local authorities on any additional resources required. He is also undertaking a tour of all coroner areas to engage with them on their post-pandemic recovery plans.

In addition, we included a package of measures in the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022 to streamline coroners’ court processes and support the coronial system with post pandemic recovery plans.

The Government’s priority is to ensure that the bereaved remain at the heart of the coroner system. In January 2020, we published a revised Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People which provides support and information for the bereaved about what they should expect from coroners’ investigations and inquests, and includes information on sources of bereavement support. The Guide is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide.


Written Question
Coroners: Standards
Tuesday 2nd August 2022

Asked by: Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average time it takes from death to holding an inquest, where necessary.

Answered by Lord Bellamy - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice)

The Coroner Statistics 2021: England and Wales, published on 12 May 2022, indicate that, on average in 2021, the time between the report of a death to the coroner and the completion of an inquest increased to 31 weeks (up from 27 weeks in 2020), although almost a third of coroner areas completed inquests within 24 weeks. Figures are also published by coroner area: for the Isle of Wight coroner area, the average time for completion of an inquest was 56 weeks (from 40 weeks in 2020).

Coroner services are locally based and funded and administered by the relevant local authorities. The Government recognises that local authorities have experienced a number of pressures as a result of the pandemic. During 2021, coroners dealt with both the impacts of the early stages of the pandemic and the ongoing effect of Covid, including a second lockdown and continued social distancing measures which, in particular, affected the ability to hold jury and other large and complex inquests.

We have provided £6.15 billion in unringfenced grant funding to local authorities in England to support the cost of pandemic pressures which could include additional costs incurred in the administration of coroner services. Funding for local authorities in Wales is a devolved matter. The Chief Coroner has issued guidance to coroners on how their services can best recover from the pandemic, including engagement with local authorities on any additional resources required. He is also undertaking a tour of all coroner areas to engage with them on their post-pandemic recovery plans.

In addition, we included a package of measures in the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022 to streamline coroners’ court processes and support the coronial system with post pandemic recovery plans.

The Government’s priority is to ensure that the bereaved remain at the heart of the coroner system. In January 2020, we published a revised Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People which provides support and information for the bereaved about what they should expect from coroners’ investigations and inquests, and includes information on sources of bereavement support. The Guide is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide.


Written Question
Coroners: Standards
Tuesday 2nd August 2022

Asked by: Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the experience of families waiting for an inquest to take place; and what bereavement support they are providing to these individuals.

Answered by Lord Bellamy - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice)

The Coroner Statistics 2021: England and Wales, published on 12 May 2022, indicate that, on average in 2021, the time between the report of a death to the coroner and the completion of an inquest increased to 31 weeks (up from 27 weeks in 2020), although almost a third of coroner areas completed inquests within 24 weeks. Figures are also published by coroner area: for the Isle of Wight coroner area, the average time for completion of an inquest was 56 weeks (from 40 weeks in 2020).

Coroner services are locally based and funded and administered by the relevant local authorities. The Government recognises that local authorities have experienced a number of pressures as a result of the pandemic. During 2021, coroners dealt with both the impacts of the early stages of the pandemic and the ongoing effect of Covid, including a second lockdown and continued social distancing measures which, in particular, affected the ability to hold jury and other large and complex inquests.

We have provided £6.15 billion in unringfenced grant funding to local authorities in England to support the cost of pandemic pressures which could include additional costs incurred in the administration of coroner services. Funding for local authorities in Wales is a devolved matter. The Chief Coroner has issued guidance to coroners on how their services can best recover from the pandemic, including engagement with local authorities on any additional resources required. He is also undertaking a tour of all coroner areas to engage with them on their post-pandemic recovery plans.

In addition, we included a package of measures in the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022 to streamline coroners’ court processes and support the coronial system with post pandemic recovery plans.

The Government’s priority is to ensure that the bereaved remain at the heart of the coroner system. In January 2020, we published a revised Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People which provides support and information for the bereaved about what they should expect from coroners’ investigations and inquests, and includes information on sources of bereavement support. The Guide is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide.


Written Question
Turkey: Genocide
Monday 18th July 2022

Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench - Life peer)

Question to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of Turkey about its obligations to prevent genocide against the Yazidi people; and what discussions they have had with the UN Security Council about referring Turkey to the International Criminal Court in respect of allegations of genocide within its territory.

Answered by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is committed to the prevention and punishment of genocide as appropriate under the Genocide Convention, to which the UK is party. It is the long-standing policy of the British Government that any judgment as to whether genocide has occurred is a matter for a competent national or international court, rather than for governments or non-judicial bodies. However, this policy does not inhibit the UK from taking robust action to address the egregious human rights abuses committed by Daesh.

We condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by Daesh against all civilians, including Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities, as well as Muslim populations in Syria and Iraq. We note the conviction in a German court on 30 November 2021 of a former Daesh fighter for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. We are following this case and its review closely. We will continue to use our position at the UN, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to raise situations of concern and to support the deployment of all appropriate tools available to the UN in dealing with potential mass atrocities. Our focus is always on securing an end to violence and protecting civilians.


Written Question
Iraq and Syria: Yazidis
Monday 18th July 2022

Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench - Life peer)

Question to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether there has been genocide of the Yazidi people at the hands of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Answered by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is committed to the prevention and punishment of genocide as appropriate under the Genocide Convention, to which the UK is party. It is the long-standing policy of the British Government that any judgment as to whether genocide has occurred is a matter for a competent national or international court, rather than for governments or non-judicial bodies. However, this policy does not inhibit the UK from taking robust action to address the egregious human rights abuses committed by Daesh.

We condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by Daesh against all civilians, including Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities, as well as Muslim populations in Syria and Iraq. We note the conviction in a German court on 30 November 2021 of a former Daesh fighter for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. We are following this case and its review closely. We will continue to use our position at the UN, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to raise situations of concern and to support the deployment of all appropriate tools available to the UN in dealing with potential mass atrocities. Our focus is always on securing an end to violence and protecting civilians.


Written Question
Judiciary: Recruitment
Thursday 14th July 2022

Asked by: Steve Reed (Labour (Co-op) - Croydon North)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether his Department has taken steps to work with other organisations to reform the recruitment function of the judiciary.

Answered by Sarah Dines - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) (jointly with Home Office)

The independent Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is responsible for running recruitment exercises and for making recommendations to judicial posts up to and including the High Court. It has a statutory duty under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 to select on merit and to encourage diversity. The JAC is committed to improving its selection processes continuously, which are kept under review in partnership with external and independent experts, to ensure best recruitment practice is maintained and developed.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), as part of the Judicial Diversity Forum, works with the JAC, the judiciary and the legal professions to attract and support the widest range of candidates, to improve the rate of progress of under-represented groups overall, with action required at all stages of the process and from all members of the JDF.

The Lord Chief Justice is responsible for the appointment of magistrates, and recruitment to the magistracy is delivered in partnership with with MoJ, HMCTS and Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace. The Government recently invested over £1 million in a programme of work to support the recruitment of new magistrates. This has included the introduction of a new digital recruitment process and inclusive marketing strategy designed to increase application numbers from under-represented groups. This was developed in collaboration with a steering group including HMCTS and Judicial Office, the Magistrates Association and judicial office holders, all of whom MoJ continue to work closely with.


Written Question
Legal Aid Scheme: Fees and Charges
Thursday 14th July 2022

Asked by: Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour - Erith and Thamesmead)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of extending the proposed 15 per cent increase in legal aid fees to the approximately 58,000 cases that are currently backlogged in the Crown courts.

Answered by Sarah Dines - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) (jointly with Home Office)

We are introducing a 15% uplift across most fee schemes in line with the recommendations made in the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review. This, alongside longer-term reforms, will increase spend by £135m a year – alongside our investment in court recovery this would take expected criminal legal aid spend to £1.2 billion per year. We have given careful consideration to the idea of increasing fees on current cases but there are a number of reasons why our current approach is the fastest process possible.

The median figure after expenses for specialist criminal barristers in the first three years is around £19,000 with the figure increasing significantly after the first year. Thus, the median income after expenses for barristers with 2 years of practice is around £32,000. Between 3 to 7 years of practice, their median income after expenses is around £50,000. The figures above are based on the evidence published by Independent Review into Criminal Legal Aid. It should be noted that this, in its turn, was based on a common dataset shared by the MoJ and Bar Council, constructed following a data share agreement between the MoJ (Legal Aid Agency), Bar Council and Crown Prosecution Service. It has not been possible to compare our estimates on barristers’ annual income after expenses with the minimum wage per hour as we do not hold information on the number of weeks and hours per week that barristers work.

The 15% pay increase would mean a typical criminal barrister earning around £7,000 extra per year. We are moving as quickly as possible to introduce fee rises by the end of September. Solicitors and barristers will start to receive increased fees this year and our modelling suggests that over two thirds of the additional funding will have entered the system within the first year.

Criminal barristers play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and are a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. Our plans to increase legal aid fees will put criminal legal aid on a sustainable footing and ensure there is a sustainable supply of practitioners.

The Government is committed to supporting recovery across the court system. Over the next three financial years, we are investing an extra £477 million for the Criminal Justice System to help improve waiting times for victims of crime and reduce the Crown Court backlog to an estimated 53,000 cases by March 2025.

The outstanding caseload in the Crown Court has reduced from around 60,600 cases in June 2021 to around 58,300 cases at the end of April 2022.

We have removed the limit of sitting days in the Crown Court for the second year in a row, extended 30 Nightingale courtrooms and raised the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. We have also opened two new ‘super courtrooms’ in Manchester and Loughborough, allowing up to an extra 250 cases a year to be heard across England and Wales.

We are also expanding our plans for judicial recruitment to secure enough judicial capacity to sit at the required levels in 2022/2023 and beyond.

By the end of March 2023, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases than we did pre-Covid (117,000 in 2022/23 compared to 97,000 in 2019/20).


Written Question
Barristers and Courts
Thursday 14th July 2022

Asked by: Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour - Erith and Thamesmead)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he plans to take to (a) improve the retention of criminal barristers and (b) reduce court backlogs.

Answered by Sarah Dines - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) (jointly with Home Office)

We are introducing a 15% uplift across most fee schemes in line with the recommendations made in the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review. This, alongside longer-term reforms, will increase spend by £135m a year – alongside our investment in court recovery this would take expected criminal legal aid spend to £1.2 billion per year. We have given careful consideration to the idea of increasing fees on current cases but there are a number of reasons why our current approach is the fastest process possible.

The median figure after expenses for specialist criminal barristers in the first three years is around £19,000 with the figure increasing significantly after the first year. Thus, the median income after expenses for barristers with 2 years of practice is around £32,000. Between 3 to 7 years of practice, their median income after expenses is around £50,000. The figures above are based on the evidence published by Independent Review into Criminal Legal Aid. It should be noted that this, in its turn, was based on a common dataset shared by the MoJ and Bar Council, constructed following a data share agreement between the MoJ (Legal Aid Agency), Bar Council and Crown Prosecution Service. It has not been possible to compare our estimates on barristers’ annual income after expenses with the minimum wage per hour as we do not hold information on the number of weeks and hours per week that barristers work.

The 15% pay increase would mean a typical criminal barrister earning around £7,000 extra per year. We are moving as quickly as possible to introduce fee rises by the end of September. Solicitors and barristers will start to receive increased fees this year and our modelling suggests that over two thirds of the additional funding will have entered the system within the first year.

Criminal barristers play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and are a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. Our plans to increase legal aid fees will put criminal legal aid on a sustainable footing and ensure there is a sustainable supply of practitioners.

The Government is committed to supporting recovery across the court system. Over the next three financial years, we are investing an extra £477 million for the Criminal Justice System to help improve waiting times for victims of crime and reduce the Crown Court backlog to an estimated 53,000 cases by March 2025.

The outstanding caseload in the Crown Court has reduced from around 60,600 cases in June 2021 to around 58,300 cases at the end of April 2022.

We have removed the limit of sitting days in the Crown Court for the second year in a row, extended 30 Nightingale courtrooms and raised the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. We have also opened two new ‘super courtrooms’ in Manchester and Loughborough, allowing up to an extra 250 cases a year to be heard across England and Wales.

We are also expanding our plans for judicial recruitment to secure enough judicial capacity to sit at the required levels in 2022/2023 and beyond.

By the end of March 2023, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases than we did pre-Covid (117,000 in 2022/23 compared to 97,000 in 2019/20).


Written Question
Legal Aid Scheme: Fees and Charges
Thursday 14th July 2022

Asked by: Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour - Erith and Thamesmead)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the proposed 15 per cent increase in legal aid fees in the context of how remuneration from those fees for junior barristers compares with minimum wage.

Answered by Sarah Dines - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) (jointly with Home Office)

We are introducing a 15% uplift across most fee schemes in line with the recommendations made in the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review. This, alongside longer-term reforms, will increase spend by £135m a year – alongside our investment in court recovery this would take expected criminal legal aid spend to £1.2 billion per year. We have given careful consideration to the idea of increasing fees on current cases but there are a number of reasons why our current approach is the fastest process possible.

The median figure after expenses for specialist criminal barristers in the first three years is around £19,000 with the figure increasing significantly after the first year. Thus, the median income after expenses for barristers with 2 years of practice is around £32,000. Between 3 to 7 years of practice, their median income after expenses is around £50,000. The figures above are based on the evidence published by Independent Review into Criminal Legal Aid. It should be noted that this, in its turn, was based on a common dataset shared by the MoJ and Bar Council, constructed following a data share agreement between the MoJ (Legal Aid Agency), Bar Council and Crown Prosecution Service. It has not been possible to compare our estimates on barristers’ annual income after expenses with the minimum wage per hour as we do not hold information on the number of weeks and hours per week that barristers work.

The 15% pay increase would mean a typical criminal barrister earning around £7,000 extra per year. We are moving as quickly as possible to introduce fee rises by the end of September. Solicitors and barristers will start to receive increased fees this year and our modelling suggests that over two thirds of the additional funding will have entered the system within the first year.

Criminal barristers play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and are a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. Our plans to increase legal aid fees will put criminal legal aid on a sustainable footing and ensure there is a sustainable supply of practitioners.

The Government is committed to supporting recovery across the court system. Over the next three financial years, we are investing an extra £477 million for the Criminal Justice System to help improve waiting times for victims of crime and reduce the Crown Court backlog to an estimated 53,000 cases by March 2025.

The outstanding caseload in the Crown Court has reduced from around 60,600 cases in June 2021 to around 58,300 cases at the end of April 2022.

We have removed the limit of sitting days in the Crown Court for the second year in a row, extended 30 Nightingale courtrooms and raised the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. We have also opened two new ‘super courtrooms’ in Manchester and Loughborough, allowing up to an extra 250 cases a year to be heard across England and Wales.

We are also expanding our plans for judicial recruitment to secure enough judicial capacity to sit at the required levels in 2022/2023 and beyond.

By the end of March 2023, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases than we did pre-Covid (117,000 in 2022/23 compared to 97,000 in 2019/20).