CRIMINAL defendants face delays of up to a year to find out their fate because there are too many cases for the courts to deal with.
Cheshire courts are facing double the number of trials compared to this time last year, with 1,400 not guilty pleas in the system at any one time.
Yet criminal justice chiefs in Cheshire have denied there is a crisis and claim the problem was not spotted for six months because they were not told to look.
The problem only came to light in June through a Criminal Justice Board report on witness care.
Area director of HM Court Service Cheshire, Julia Eeles, said: 'We were not instructed to look at the numbers of cases listed. I know it seems perfectly simple now but that is with the benefit of hindsight. We didn't have a totals box and were not required to collect that information.
'It can't be described as a crisis because the courts are still running but this backlog cannot be allowed to continue. Until we take action it is going to get worse and worse.'
Two district judges have now been brought in this month to help clear the backlog, and trials are being separated by type across Cheshire.
But defence solicitor Robin Boag said: 'It is the old expression 'justice delayed is justice denied'. You get some fantastic delays - it is very undesirable.'