A backlog in court cases is being blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic, as new figures show a fall in prison inmates (including at HMP Isle of Wight) and a rise in those awaiting a trial, or sentencing.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) data show there were 765 inmates at HMP Isle of Wight on March 31, 2021.

That is 262 fewer than on the same date in March 2020.

Meanwhile, an MoJ report has found that people held on remand (in prison, awaiting trial, or sentencing) reached a ten year high, on March 31.

Campaign group The Howard League for Penal Reform is blaming the backlog on coronavirus, which is says has put an extra strain on both victims and defendants.

Across England and Wales, the number of prisoners fell by six per cent, between March 2020 and March 2021.

The MOJ said the number of people in prison had been falling already, but the impact of Covid-19 on had triggered a sharper decline.

Crime also fell during the lockdowns.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Now, more than ever before, it is vital that police and prosecutors use their discretion and make sensible decisions to ensure that people are not swept into the system unnecessarily."

A spokesman for the MoJ said: "Courts have been prioritising the most urgent cases throughout the pandemic, to protect the public and ensure offenders continue to face justice.

"Thanks to measures such as Nightingale courts and the rapid expansion of videos hearings, outstanding magistrates’ cases have fallen by 50,000 since last summer."

Others involved in the criminal justice system have blamed underfunding and cut backs.