A leading Bradford barrister has labelled the coronavirus pandemic “catastrophic” for the city’s already under-siege Crown Court.

Stephen Wood, a recently appointed Queen’s Counsel, who has prosecuted and defended many high-profile cases over the past 25 years, said the courts were already struggling with a backlog of cases stretching back to 2017.

Mr Wood, who has been at the city’s Broadway House Chambers since 1991, said the present situation was unprecedented.

He told the Telegraph & Argus: “No one benefits from these delays, which cause additional anguish to victims of crime, witnesses and defendants left waiting for their cases to be dealt with.”

The understandable shutdown caused by Covid-19 comes on top of months of chronic underfunding, with Bradford Crown Court running at half capacity: with four courts sitting instead of a possible eight.

Before the virus struck, judges were complaining that it was taking up to two – and in some instances three - years for cases to get to the court.

Judges who would have dealt out immediate jail sentences to offenders were obliged to suspend them because of the unacceptable wait for justice. In some instances, young people who were juveniles in 2018 had completely turned their lives around.

Yesterday, just one of the eight Crown Courts was sitting in Bradford, dealing with bail applications, heard via BT Meet Me, and one appeal against sentence, on a video link and Meet Me.

On Monday, the trial of a mother accused of attempting to murder her two young sons was the first to be suspended at Bradford Crown Court because of coronavirus.

The woman from the Bradford area, who is in a psychiatric hospital, is alleged to have tried to strangle and gas the children.

The directive to suspend all jury trials nationally came that day from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, as part of ongoing efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Wood, who prosecuted the case, said the woman’s Hospital Order would expire on April 14 and it would be a “disaster” to send her back to prison.

Judge Jonathan Rose said it could be a condition of her bail that she resided at the hospital until the trial was re-fixed.

The procedure at Bradford Crown Court is currently not to fix any new trials before January 2, 2021.

Existing trials that have been pulled out of the list will be “slotted in” administratively after September 1 this year.