Bar Council cautions MOJ over virtual justice
Andrew Langdon QC, Chairman of the Bar has responded to the publication of the Prisons and Courts Bill.
"While the Prisons and Courts Bill indicates the government clearly sees our justice system as a priority, we must ensure proposals in the Bill do not in any way hinder or reduce access to justice for our citizens.
“Though the Ministry of Justice has in relation to personal injury confined the new small claims limit of £5000 to road traffic accident claims, the change nevertheless, means that many more claimants will have little choice but to attempt to represent themselves, often against a well-resourced insurance company as an opponent. Any increase in the small claims limit is bound to put increasing strain on the civil justice system.
“Moves towards greater use of virtual justice must be taken with caution. We are also concerned that any form of justice that might encourage defendants to plead guilty out of convenience, when in fact they may not be guilty of an offence, no matter how small, risks injustice.
“We welcome proposals which protect victims of domestic abuse and enable cross-examination by a representative rather than the accused in person.
“These proposals will come under close scrutiny by the Bar Council, the barristers' profession at large and other legal professionals given what's at stake. As this is the Ministry of Justice's flagship Bill for this Parliament they will want to work with those of us at the forefront of our justice system in order to get it right."