Victims of crime are at the mercy of a ‘postcode lottery’ in a criminal justice system that is close to breaking point, MPs warned.

A report from the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the system was ‘bedevilled by long standing poor performance including delays and inefficiencies, and costs are being shunted from one part of the system to another’.

Highlighting ‘damning statistics’, it found that ‘about two-thirds of crown court trials are delayed or do not go ahead at all and only 55% of those who have been a witness say they would be prepared to do so again’.

The report said the ‘overstretched and disjointed’ system does not adequately support victims and witnesses and said that timely access to justice is too dependent on where they live.

It noted ‘critical failings in management from the top down’ and said that the Ministry of Justice ‘has been too slow to recognise where the system is under stress, and to take action to deal with it’.

PAC chair, Meg Hillier, said: ‘An effective criminal justice system is a cornerstone of civil society but ours is at risk.’

Bar Chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said the situation is ‘a consequence of the 26% cuts since 2010-2011’ and called for justice to be ring-fenced from future cuts.

See further' Westminster Watch', in this month's issue.