Anyone who works in the criminal justice system will be only too ready to tell everyone who asks that the system is failing. It is failing victims and those accused of criminal offences alike. Lack of resources is also failing those who have dedicated their careers to working within the system – whether it be civil servants, police officers, probation officers, judges, forensic scientists, lawyers and so many more.
The system relies on public funding to grease the wheels of this vast machine, the aims of which are to protect the rights of citizens, convict the guilty and acquit those who are innocent. The funding across the board has been squeezed to such an extent that any lawyer employed in defence work will say that the system is broken and that the sticking plasters which are constantly applied are coming unstuck.
I practise in criminal defence and have done for the last 32 years. I have seen the decline of the court fabric and the rates of pay of those who are some of the most hard working and dedicated professionals that I know. The loss of morale amongst the legal profession and others is clear and palpable.
And it is not just me saying this. The Law Society recently started a campaign to highlight the plight of a system which is meant to uphold the rights that the citizens of this country expect as of right. You can read more about that here. If you agree, you can sign the Law Society petition.
“Due to many years of underinvestment, our criminal justice system is crumbling,” said Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales.
“Things are going wrong at every level – creating a nightmare journey for the accused, for victims and for those who work in the system. More resources are desperately needed.”
The FDA – the union of top civil servants – has also joined in the clamour for change, with its Manifesto For Justice https://www.fda.org.uk/home/Getinvolved/manifesto-for-justice.aspx.
The Secret Barrister, a popular commentator on the criminal justice system on social media and in his best selling book, comments, “The Manifesto for Justice is a vital document in setting out the challenges that the system faces and identifying the decisions that must be taken if we are to pull back from the brink. In 2016, the Public Accounts Committee described the criminal justice system as ‘close to breaking point’. Three years later, it is broken. And those responsible have to start putting it back together.”
Here at Gotelee, we have broken the mould of criminal law advice and representation. Having thrown off the restrictions of the ruinous legal aid system some years ago, we are now able to work directly for our clients without constantly having to look over our shoulders. We do all in our power to advise and assist our clients through a complicated process which can be upsetting, confusing and often frustrating. People tell us we do it rather well.