GLOUCESTER crown court is the busiest it has ever been - with a backlog of about 260 cases, it was revealed today.

Both resident judges at the court have this week expressed their concern at the size of the burgeoning list.

Judge William Hart said today "There are more outstanding cases in the list than Gloucester has ever had."

Judge Jamie Tabor QC commented to barristers in his court yesterday that there were now 257 cases awaiting trial or sentence - an unprecedented number. Since then several new cases have been added to the waiting list.

Court officials are unsure why so many cases are suddenly being sent to the crown court from the magistrates courts, where almost all crime is dealt with.

Only the most serious charges or repeat offenders normally get referred up to the crown court to be dealt with.

But because of the number now in the system trials are being listed as far ahead as August this year.

Gloucester has just two courtrooms but one insider said that the number of cases in the pipeline at present would represent the usual workload of a four-court centre.