Following Early Day Motion 1111, which concerns the government’s proposed Statutory Instrument (SI) on Criminal Legal Aid remuneration, there is a debate in the House of Commons on 8 May 2018.
We want all MPs to know more about the crisis in the criminal justice system.
On the day of the debate, Tuesday 8th May 2018, the Criminal Bar Association and Young Legal Aid Lawyers, supported by a broad coalition, comprising The Bar Council, Young Bar Committee, Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Justice Alliance, will host a briefing event in the House of Commons: ‘Time For Justice: The Law is Broken’ in Room 14, House of Commons Corridor between 5-6.30pm.
Angela Rafferty, Chair of the CBA and Siobhan Taylor-Ward, Vice Chair of YLAL and Justice First Fellow, will join Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Select Committee; Richard Burgon MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor; and young legal aid lawyers to discuss the crisis in the criminal justice system.
MPs will be provided with a free copy of the best-selling book by the Secret Barrister:’ Stories of the Law and How it is Broken’, and the ‘YLAL Report on Social Mobility in a Time of Austerity.’
It is critical that our elected representatives have a clear understanding of the crisis the Criminal Justice System is facing.
MPs are invited to attend to collect their copies of the best seller and discuss the crisis in our criminal justice system.
We ask you to consider these points relating to our criminal Justice system in crisis:
- The rule of law and access to justice are fundamental to a healthy and functioning democratic society.
- Every aspect of the criminal justice system is under threat. The progress made on diversity is in grave danger, with profound consequences for public trust as the judiciary, professions and institutions cease to reflect the communities they serve
- Every week brings news of another criminal trial collapsing due to lack of adequate resources. The disclosure debacles are just one very high profile example of the damage being done to our once great system from chronic and deliberate lack of investment.
- In 2016 MPs were told by the Public Accounts Committee that the Criminal Justice System was at breaking point. After 20 years of successive cuts, the system is now broken.
- In planning more cuts, Ministers are making an unequivocal commitment to underfunding the legal system, and to refusing to provide a quality of justice that the public are entitled to expect.
- The criminal justice system is failing. The public are right to be alarmed. Action for justice is required.
From a Solicitors view point, as well as fully supporting our colleagues at the Bar, we ask you in addition to consider these few points:
- The issue before the House on the 8th May relates to Counsels fees and the struggle of the Bar is supported by solicitors. But this overall issue of underfunding is not at all limited to Counsels fees. Solicitors carry out 97% of all criminal work. Without our firms surviving, Counsel will not be instructed. We are also suffering because of the dreadful impact of underfunding (plus recent and the threat of future cuts) is having upon the financial viability of firms. We are an aging profession and none are coming through to replace us. See this link https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/apr/17/criminal-defence-solicitors-may-be-extinct-in-five-years-says-law-society
- Solicitors have not had an increase in legal aid rates for 19 years. Our patience has been rewarded by a fee-cut of 8.75% in March 2014 and is now are threatened with a financial guillotine which will severely impede our efforts to investigate the very type of evidence that led to the disclosure failures that causing so many near and actual miscarriages of justice recently. http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/law-society-launches-high-court-challenge-over-latest-legal-aid-cut/
- We feel nothing illustrates more the attitude of the MOJ to justice, than the impossible position the MOJ have placed Solicitors in with its demand that Solicitors cope with vast amounts of increasing volumes of disclosure but are to be paid less for reading it! This after all we have already endured. It is intolerable. It is dangerous. See here for contributions made by the profession to the Justice select Committee. https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/justice-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/disclosure-criminal-cases-17-19/
So please collect and read the Secret Barristers best-selling book and the YLAL Report. Please attend the meeting. Please then vote down the legislation laid before the house threatening the viability of Counsel.
But do not leave it there. Kindly use your influence to reverse and halt unjustifiable and unsustainable cuts suffered by and faced by Solicitors as well as Counsel.
We used to have the finest legal system in the world but you can see from headlines its reputation is now in ruins at a time when the UK needs our institutions to be respected.
If underfunding and cuts drive out dedicated professionals then, by acquiescing in cuts, with respect are you not also complicit as a parliamentarian (through inertia) by failing to halt the destruction of access to justice within your local community? The consequences will be felt by you in the increase in footfall to your constituency surgery as your constituents encounter the legal advice deserts there.
We will not return. We will move on.
We were right in predicting disclosure disasters now seen regularly in the media and we are right about this.
It is almost too late but please try to save UK Justice.