Jury trials were meant to deliver justice. Covid-19 brought them to a halt

102 Petty France in London is to be used as a temporary "Nightingale Court" to help deal with the backlog of cases in the court system in England and Wales.

(CNN)Kellie Meir has waited two years to see the man accused of causing her son's death face trial.

Danny Meir, the oldest of her six children, was 22 when he was killed in a collision between his motorbike and a car in Stockton-on-Tees, a market town in northeast England, in July 2018.
The driver of the car, a man in his early 60s, denies causing Meir's death by careless or inconsiderate driving. He was originally due to stand trial last month, but the case has been delayed until March next year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Danny Meir died in a road accident in Stockton-on-Tees, England, in July 2018.
    The UK locked down on March 23 in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19, and while most courts in England and Wales have since reopened, many trials are now subject to lengthy delays, leaving victims and their families in limbo and many defendants -- who remain innocent until proven guilty -- in custody.
    Kellie Meir said she first heard of the change to her son's case in June, when friends shared local news articles about the decision on social media.
    "That's the worst thing -- we had to read it on Facebook," she told CNN. "Nobody told us. We didn't have a letter. [I] just opened up Facebook and saw his picture all over the place."
    Meir said her son was a great motorcycle enthusiast. "I know he was [on his motorbike] when he died, but he loved that thing, from such a young age."
    Danny's sudden death left his mother, four younger brothers, younger sister, long-term girlfriend and grandparents devastated. "My mum took it particularly hard [because] they were very close," Meir added.
    "It's been two years now, and it'll be three by [the time of the trial.] We can't move on with our lives, we haven't got closure," she said.

    'Backlog on backlog'

    Trial by jury is a cornerstone of democratic legal systems around the world, especially those based on English common law -- also known as Anglo-American law.
    But seating 12 strangers side-by-side in a courtroom for days or even weeks is impractical in these socially-distanced times.
    Most criminal cases in England and Wales begin in magistrates' courts, which handle less serious offenses. Following the coronavirus lockdown, the backlog in these courts stands at a record high of 483,678 cases -- up from 406,610 cases earlier this year, according to the British government.
    Meanwhile the Crown courts, where more serious cases are heard, face a backlog of 40,526 outstanding cases as of the week ending May 24, according to preliminary data from the British government. That's up from a pre-coronavirus caseload of 39,214, though not as high as a peak of 55,000 cases recorded in 2014.
    Lawyers working in the court system in England and Wales criticized the mounting caseload -- which they say is the result of years of underinvestment, cuts and court closures -- long before the pandemic. Coronavirus has only exacerbated the situation.
    For victims and their families, the additional delays caused by Covid-19 have made an already stressful situation unbearable.
    "It's not just the delay, it's everything around it," said Alex Mayes, external affairs manager at rights group Victim Support. "Before, victims were feeling anxious. Now they have added anxiety around coronavirus itself."
    Penelope Gibbs, an ex-magistrate and the founder of NGO Transform Justice, agrees. "It's going to be backlog on backlog, and