JusticeWatch: Grayling’s nihilistic legacy

A nihilistic legacy
‘Destructive’ Grayling blamed for computer chaos in courts, reported Jonathan Ames and Frances Gibb in The Times on this week’s IT meltdown.

According to lawyers, the problems dated back ‘years to Chris Grayling’s “nihilistic legacy”’. Grayling, now transport secretary, was lord chancellor for three years until 2015 ‘during which time the introduction of the present IT system began’, it reported.  

Lawyers queued up to put the boot into their favourite bogeymen. ‘The unrealistic planning has all the hallmarks of a Grayling project. He has repeated the trick everywhere he has been,’ said Chris Henley QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association. ‘We’ve seen it with the probation contract, private prisons and more recently the railways. We are living with his destructive nihilistic legacy in all areas of legal aid and the courts.’

The justice minister Lucy Frazer told MPs that the systems crash did not relate to budget cuts but was ‘a contractual supplier and an issue in their system’

Earlier in the week Jonathan Ames reported that criminals could go free because of the IT breakdown. It was reported that about 30 trials had been adjourned, ‘one senior figure said that the system was “on its knees”’ and the previous week 75,000 judges and lawyers using the criminal justice secure email system were ‘locked out’.

Cracking the whip?
The Attorney General has promised to ‘crack the whip’ in order to prevent further disclosure failures – according to Will Bordell on the Justice Gap. 

Appearing before MPs on the justice select committee yesterday morning, the former barrister Geoffrey Cox, who was appointed as Attorney General in July last year, told MPs: ‘I am determined that we don’t see this blemish rise again to stain our criminal justice system and to produce a dent in the confidence in what is otherwise something in which we should be enormously proud.’

When asked about the 30% reduction in funding for the CPS since 2010, Cox defended the CPS’s record, commenting: ‘It is a travesty in my view to describe the CPS as a failing organisation, as some wholly exaggerated accounts often assume lazily. On the contrary, day in and day out, thousands of judgments are made on prosecution which are borne out in the courts.’

He continued: ‘If you ask me, “is it possible for them to sustain further cuts of the same kind?” I’ll be frank with you: I don’t believe it is. But I do think it’s important to stress that there has been no suffering in the core functions of the Crown Prosecution Service as a consequence of the reductions we’ve seen to date.’

In response, the Secret Barrister tweeted that it was a travesty to deny the effect of cuts on the quality of justice.’

Housing Court
John Hyde writing for the Law Society’s Gazette, reported that the Civil Justice Council has come out against government plans for a specialist housing court. ‘The CJC would not support a major redesign of and/or transfer of cases within the courts and tribunal services for housing cases at this time,’ the group said in a response to a consultation. ‘This is particularly so at a time when the court reform programme and the increasing digitalisation of procedures within the courts and tribunal service is yet to be completed or evaluated.’

TLEF annual report
The Legal Education Foundation has invested £21m including creating 68 new trainee lawyer posts. According to the Foundation’s annual report some 91 organisations received grants last year worth £5.7m – 12% up on 2017.

In the last five years, TLEF has made almost 370 grants, totalling £21m. You can read the review here.


About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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