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The crisis in criminal justice is too acute for the new PM to ignore

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The next Prime Minister must tackle the crisis engulfing the Criminal Justice System if it's to survive.
  • Years of austerity cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and legal aid have left the UK Criminal Justice System on the brink of collapse.
  • The FDA union has launched a Manifesto for Justice setting out how the government can reverse the damage and save UK justice.
  • We're calling on both Tory leadership candidates to endorse the manifesto and act before it's too late.

Whoever the next PM is, they need to tackle the crisis engulfing the Criminal Justice System.

Years of austerity cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and legal aid have left the system on the brink of collapse.

As the Tory leadership contest enters its final weeks and campaign promises start to mount up, both candidates would do well to focus on fixing this problem.

And if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt are looking for clues about to go about it they could do worse than check out the FDA union’s Manifesto for Justice.

It makes four key demands on the government to reverse the damage:

  1. A properly resourced CPS – To protect the public with a robust and effective prosecution service.
  2. No more cuts to legal aid – To ensure that justice is available to all.
  3. Investment in digital disclosure – To maintain public confidence in justice.
  4. Competitive pay and fees – To recruit and retain lawyers for a sustainable Criminal Justice System.

Thousands of FDA members and supporters are pressing candidates to do something before the Criminal Justice System collapses entirely.

Help them put it right: sign the petition.

What’s gone wrong?

From prisons, to probation, to the courts, justice is at breaking point.

The Crown Prosecution Service budget has been cut by 25 per cent over the last decade, and 96 per cent of prosecutors surveyed by the FDA agreed that the service no longer has enough lawyers to fulfil its duties.

At the same time, real-terms pay cuts of up to 42 per cent mean that lawyers are ditching criminal law for more lucrative careers, leaving those who remain with more and more unmanageable caseloads.

The crisis in justice isn’t just being reported by staff in the system are saying (though it is that as well) or unions representing the sector (though they’ve been sounding the alarm for years).

It’s also the conclusion of Christina Blacklaw, the President of the Law Society.

And five former commissioners of the Metropolitan police, who have warned that police resources are at dangerously low levels.

Why does this matter?

Savage cuts to the Ministry of Justice are leading to grave injustices.

Changes to legal aid funding have led a 30 per cent decline in the number of legal aid firms in recent years.

As a result, many people on low to medium income are unable to afford the legal aid contribution required.

And since 2012, people who are acquitted at trial have been entitled to reimbursement along legal aid rates, which can fall well below the actual costs incurred in their defence.

So being found innocent can now be as financially ruinous as a guilty verdict.

What can be done?

Unions have been calling for an end to the cuts to the justice system for years.

We warned about the risks of legal aid deserts, of court closures and the increased risk of miscarriages of justice to people like Sam Hallam.

Sam lost seven years of his life to false imprisonment because the police failed to disclose vital evidence to the defence.

Thanks to legal aid Sam was eventually able to overturn his conviction on appeal.

But less than one in ten people now qualify for legal aid, so many in Sam’s position in the future will struggle to secure the appeal that was so crucial to his freedom.

The next PM must act

A properly functioning criminal justice system is fundamental to the rule of law.

That’s why the two candidates for next Tory leader have a responsibility to tackle this crisis if they become Prime Minister.

So add your voice to the nearly 2,000 others calling on Boris and Jeremy to save UK justice before it’s too late.