Chancellor must reinvigorate faith in our struggling justice system – Bar Council
Andrew Walker QC, Chair of the Bar Council, sets out what he hopes to see ahead of the Budget announcement on 29 October.
When the 2018 Budget is unveiled on Monday, all those who are deeply concerned about the health of our justice system will be watching closely.
The combined budgets of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Crown Prosecution Service are a tiny fraction of government spending, even before MoJ income is taken into account. To put this into context, the Department for Work and Pensions spends in less than three weeks what the MoJ spends in a year. Starting on New Year’s Day, it spends the whole annual legal aid budget by breakfast time on 4 January. The NHS spends it by bedtime the following day. Surely justice deserves so much better than this?
As we usher in Justice Week (29 October - 2 November), the Chancellor of the Exchequer must reinvigorate faith in our struggling justice system, by delivering long-awaited investment in the MoJ budget - and particularly in legal aid. Only then will we have a fighting chance of addressing the deep-seated issues that have recently been brought to national attention: issues that are symptomatic of a system that, by the reported admission of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, is now “shattered”.
A commitment to invest in court modernisation is no substitute for the money needed to repair today’s crumbling infrastructure, to support those who cannot afford to pay for legal help, and to ensure that the struggling people on whose goodwill the system will continue to depend are given proper respect and can earn a sustainable income.