Large-scale investments are needed to ensure the criminal justice system is able to tackle court backlogs and ensure access to justice for victims and defendants, state leaders say lawyers.
The warning from the Law Society of England and Wales comes as the Public Accounts Committee today published a report questioning the UK Government’s ‘meager ambition’ to reduce the backlog of cases to 53,000 the Crown Court.
“The report echoes the concerns we have long raised about the backlog plaguing our criminal courts, leaving victims and defendants waiting too long to get the justice they deserve,” said the president of the Bar, I. Stephanie Boyce.
“Long delays in even the most serious court cases mean that a traumatized victim may wait years to see their abuser locked up, while an innocent defendant may find his or her life in limbo waiting to clear her name.
“Our duty counsel heatmaps and workload survey illustrate the retention and recruitment crisis in the criminal defense profession.*
“Years of underinvestment and cuts mean there is a real risk that the capacity simply isn’t there in terms of lawyers and lawyers, as well as judges, to do the large volume of work needed. to eliminate the backlog significantly.
“Investment is now needed across the criminal justice system, starting with the immediate implementation of the 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates recommended in Sir Christopher Bellamy’s Independent Review on criminal legal aid.
“If this does not happen, we are concerned that our members will leave the market at ever faster rates, which will seriously compromise the government’s ability to eliminate the huge backlog of criminal courts and reduce the unacceptable delays faced by victims, witnesses and defendants. .
“Ensuring that all barriers preventing various candidates from obtaining opportunities in the profession are removed, as well as recruiting from diverse talent pools of salaried and salaried judges in courts and tribunals, will help build the capacity needed to eliminate the ‘back.
“As the report rightly points out, 20,000 new police officers will only increase the workload of the criminal courts. You can pour all the money you want into policing and prosecution, but without a healthy criminal defense profession, British justice will cease to exist and it is the public who will suffer.
Notes to Editors
Read our survey of firms’ ability to manage the Crown Court backlog
From February 10, 2022only 1,062 firms held a criminal legal aid contract compared to 1,652 in April 2012.
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