JusticeWatch: Twenty years of cuts

Twenty years of cuts
A crisis in the criminal justice system triggered the barristers’ strike action ‘and although that dispute seems narrowly to have been resolved – the crisis has not gone away’, said Law Society president Joe Egan.

‘Twenty years of cuts have heaped colossal pressure on the system, and those who work hard every day to ensure the rule of law is upheld. The Law Society has produced clear evidence of the imminent collapse of the criminal legal aid solicitors’ market. Despite that, the Ministry of Justice is simply not addressing the root problems. All through the barristers’ strike solicitors have kept working – this commitment to the rule of the law has again gone unrewarded.’
Joe Egan, Law Society president

The Times’ Frances Gibb, writing about the vote by Criminal barristers to call off their action, offered the following 20 year overview:

● 1997: end of hourly rates and a new graduated fee scheme for trials of up to ten days. Rates set at 1995 fee levels
● 2001: scheme extended to trials of up to 25 days, involving fees cut
●2004: Government restored “unintended” cuts, but with no rise for inflation. Scheme extended to trials of up to 40 days
● 2005: QC payments cut by 12.5 per cent; “uplift” scrapped for 10 day-trials
● 2007: A revised scheme increases fees by 18 per cent, but below 26 per cent rate of inflation from 1997-2006
● 2010: Fees cut by 13.5 per cent over three years. Scheme extended to 40-60 day trials — reducing fees in those cases by 39.5 per cent.
● 2011: more fee cuts for serious cases
● Since 2013: no cuts, but no rises for inflation. Fees now 40 per cent lower in real terms than in 2007

Judge Brenda
LAG is looking to raise funds to publish a children’s book on the life  of Lady Hale. According to its chair Laura Janes, the book will ‘not only be an inspirational story of Lady Hale’s achievements but will also introduce children to the legal system, the concept of equal access to justice, the importance of the rule of law and how it affects us all’.

‘It’s been an amazing life and I’m thrilled at the idea of making it into a picture book to entertain and inspire young people.
Lady Hale

The book will feature writing by the journalists Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and Afua Hirsch and illustration by Henny Beaumont. LAG is planning to publish the book in 2019, one hundred years after women were first permitted to be lawyers. Lady Hale is the most senior judge in the United Kingdom. You can support the project here.

A blight on the justice system
The ‘appalling’ failings of the police and Crown Prosecution Service to disclose evidence in criminal cases have been a blight on Britain’s justice system for too long, the attorney-general has admitted – as reported in the Times. Jeremy Wright QC said that the new CPS boss would need to get to grips with the issue as a priority.

‘Nothing is more important in the criminal justice system than that principle,’ Wright said, giving evidence to the justice committee’s inquiry into evidence disclosure failings. ‘I will be as clear as I can be, that we have got to get to grips with this at a senior level.’

Delivering the Sir Henry Brooke annual lecture on ‘the age of reform’ last week, Lord Burnett of Maldon said he had ‘little doubt’ that high-quality simultaneous translation will be available and ‘see the end of interpreters’. However – and as reported by Monidipa Foudzer of the Law Society Gazette – the Institute of Translation and Interpreting said Burnett’s prediction was based on unproven assumptions. ‘Even the most highly developed machine translation systems can and do commit errors at a rate that would be unacceptable for the judicial process,’ the group said.

‘To allow such systems loose on the justice system in their current state and without significant time in testing, development and trialling would lead to miscarriages of justice, increased taxpayer expense and the inability of those with limited English proficiency to participate in the justice system. This runs counter to current human rights law and would lead to irreparable damage to the British justice system.’
The Institute of Translation and Interpreting

Interesting times
Justice minister Phillip Lee became the government’s first resignation over Brexit. ‘We live in interesting times, don’t we?’ Lee told the Bright Blue audience ahead of his shock departure – as reported on the Rightsinfo site. Lee was minister for human rights. Apparently, his focus was ‘on the big strategic question’. ‘That is, how we advance human rights for the 21st century,’ he continued. ‘So it upsets me that the Conservative Party and human rights are rarely connected in public consciousness except in a negative way.’


Untenable workload’ in the family courts
The family justice system was ‘in crisis, fuelled by an “untenable” workload created by a glut of applications to take vulnerable children into care’, said Sir Andrew McFarlane, who takes over as president of the family division of the high court next month. His comments came at the launch of the Care Crisis review and were reported in the Guardian (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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