The fuel crisis has begun to threaten whether important court cases can go ahead, with lawyers resorting to siphoning fuel from friends’ cars in order to prosecute criminals.
The shortage, added to a growing backlog of trials and a lack of barristers for cases, risks "tipping a creaking system over the edge", according to lawyers.
Nicola Moore, a criminal barrister for 29 years who specialises in rape and serious sexual offences cases, told the Telegraph she had buy a pump online in order to get fuel from a friend’s lorry so she could prosecute in a serious case.
"On Sunday night, I couldn’t get any fuel," she said. "I had enough to get to court but I didn’t know whether I had enough to get home. I went to 10 petrol stations, I tried to call around another half a dozen but they didn’t answer the phone.
"This young girl reported serious sexual abuse in 2017. We have had three aborted trial dates and it didn’t get to the Crown Court until 2019. I said that we would have to get somebody else to prosecute this because I can’t get back tomorrow.
"I bought a pump online from Halfords to siphon fuel out of a horse lorry that belonged to a friend of mine into my diesel car. I managed to get two gallons in my car, which should keep me going until Thursday – by which time hopefully I’ll be able to get some fuel."
perol pumps per car
Despite the ability for some cases to be conducted remotely, the decision to allow a trial that is not in person is down to individual judges. On Monday, a judge reportedly asked a lawyer who asked for a remote hearing to show how much petrol she had left in her car before granting her request.
Cases still require defendants who are on remand in prisons to be transported to court, or to rooms equipped for remote trials. However, prison staff have reported that they do not have the fuel to carry out this work.
Mark Fairhurst, the national chairman of the POA Union for prison staff, said: "We are receiving reports that staff cannot travel to work because they have no fuel and cannot access fuel. This is potentially a serious issue for staff who work in remote prisons where public transport cannot be utilised.
"If escort services are affected this could put further pressure on the courts because prisoners will not be able to access jury trials, which will further delay justice. The Government needs to provide contingencies so the justice sector can operate unaffected."
A spokesman for the Criminal Bar Association said: "The entire criminal justice system has been running on vapours for years, with delays to trials all down to shortages of courtrooms and the criminal barristers and court staff to man them, leaving not a spare inch of headroom from petrol shortage-induced delays in getting anyone to a hearing, be it prisoners or court professionals.
"There was never a ‘just in time’ functioning logistics system keeping the courts together as it is being held by sticking plaster – so the idea of prisoners not even able to make a remote hearing from the cells risks tipping a creaking system over the edge."
The Ministry of Justice was contacted for comment.