Robin Millar, MP for Aberconwy, has highlighted concerns about the impact of the Welsh Government’s latest Covid-19 restrictions on the criminal justice system in Wales. Speaking about these concerns, Robin said:
“We have all been frustrated by the new social distancing measures introduced by the Welsh government. No evidence has been offered for restrictions which prevent fans from watching a rugby game from the stands in the open air, but allow them to watch it livestreamed into a packed clubhouse.
“However, the Justice Minister, James Cartlidge MP has now pointed out that the two metre social distancing rule in Wales, newly reinstated by the Welsh government, could also have significant consequences for the delivery of criminal justice here in Wales. The Ministry of Justice has calculated that, of the seventeen Crown courtrooms in Wales, five could be out of use if two metre social distancing is enforced strictly. In addition, the two that are planned to open could not be opened. In other words, that would be a loss of seven out of nineteen courtrooms, or almost forty percent of capacity here in Wales.”
Continuing, Robin said:
“We are already facing record backlogs in our criminal justice system as a result of the pandemic and we simply cannot afford to incur further, avoidable delays. North Wales Police, with the support of communities throughout Aberconwy and North Wales, are working to tackle criminal networks and the damage done by ‘County Line’ gangs. When these crimes are prosecuted they may involve multiple defendants facing trial by jury. This is made much more complex by the new social distancing requirements. It is crucial then that as business and life return to normality in other parts of the UK, that avoidable restrictions in Wales do not hamper our criminal justice system. It must be able to operate freely, to prosecute, convict and sentence criminals without unnecessary delay to keep our communities safe.”
Finally, Robin said:
“The Welsh Government needs to make a statement about this. Is it going to insist its new restrictions are followed and acknowledge that this will slow down the judicial process involving jury trials in Wales? Or is it going to decide that their restrictions are avoidable, unnecessary and need to be relaxed? They can't have it both ways.”