The Secret Barrister, he of book fame, has a wonderful tweet which recalls my previous piece on the criminal justice system but is much more detailed. It is unfortunately, even worse than I initially thought. I’ve linked to the thread here so if you are interested – and I think we all ought to be, as the problem is certainly ‘justice denied’, you can see the additional links he has provided.
Still it is a comprehensive thread and I’ve outlined the main titles – pretty much all of which are irrefutable. I would encourage you to follow the link to the thread if you cannot easily understand the basic description (the point numbers followed by P are my own comments):
1. Replace the 21,000 police officers cut since 2010, and recruit sufficient additional officers to investigate the sharp rise in violent crime.
2. Resource digital forensic investigation units so that it does not take over 12 months to examine a mobile phone or computer, which causes enormous delays before files can even be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision. https://policeprofessional.com/news/forensic-
3. Reverse the c£1bn cut to prisons that has resulted in dangerous understaffing, a collapse in training and education of prisoners, chronic overcrowding, record violence and self-harm, out-of-control drug abuse, infestation and “not a single establishment safe to hold children.”
4. Fix the unmitigated disaster of Chris Grayling’s part-privatisation of the Probation Service which has put public safety at serious risk.
5. Abolish the Innocence Tax, by which the government refuses you legal aid, forces you to pay privately for your legal defence team and then, when you’re acquitted, refuses to reimburse you, forcing you to sell your house or empty your life savings.
6. Reverse the 25% staff cut to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has led to lawyers and caseworkers juggling unmanageable caseloads, and errors seeping into every stage of the criminal process.
7. Stop selling off the courts. Over 300 courts have been closed down since 2010. Some people – defendants, witnesses, victims – now have to endure a 5-hour round trip on public transport to reach their “local” court.
8. Make the courts that are still open fit for human use. Basics such as running water, working lifts, non-leaking roofs, heating systems and functioning toilets simply don’t exist in many courts, left to rot by ministers who don’t have to visit them.
9. Increase court “sitting days”. Stop locking courtrooms to fiddle figures on a spreadsheet. Stop paying judges to sit at home twiddling thumbs when there’s a backlog of over 30,000 Crown Court trials. It’s a false economy that causes huge delays.
10. Get a grip on the widespread abuse of “Release Under Investigation” (RUI), brought in after the govt changed the laws on police bail to win cheap headlines. RUI sees suspects released for years while investigations plod at a snail’s pace.
11. Find the £195m required to fund Rape Crisis Centres properly so that thousands of survivors don’t find themselves cut adrift with no support (see the brilliant @FernChampion for more)
11P Here at least most ‘Progressive Pulse’ readers will be aware that we don’t have to ‘find’ any money. Money is created by the government. What we have to ‘find’ is the political will.
12. Address the huge problems in forensic science that followed the government’s closure of the Forensic Science Service in 2012, which led to private providers and police laboratories failing to meet basic standards, jeopardising criminal investigations.
13. Address depressed criminal legal aid rates, which leave junior criminal lawyers earning below minimum wage, forcing out of the profession those without independent means, and which have caused a serious retention problem: https://lawsociety.org.uk/policy-campaig
14. Review the magistrates’ court system, which hands unqualified volunteers the power to send the rest of us to prison for up to a year, in conditions of sausage factory justice.
14P Having had experience of this (don’t ask!) I fear this hasn’t changed much..
15. Reverse the debilitating funding cuts to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the statutory body responsible for investigating miscarriages of justice.
16. Commit to addressing the ongoing problems with disclosure, which are rampant not only in high profile cases, but across the criminal court spectrum.
17. Reverse the cuts to youth services (up to 91% in some local authorities) which the All Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime suggested are linked to the increase in knife crime.
18. Prioritise introducing the Sentencing Code, to bring some order to and help public understanding of our chaotic and fiendishly complex sentencing laws, which are a baffling minefield due to decades of populist knee-jerk legislating.
19. Address mental health provision. The criminal justice system, and especially prisons, are crammed with people who should not be there. Criminal justice does not exist in a vacuum. The whole system must do better.
20. Improve understanding of the criminal justice system through public legal education. And ensure that, as PM, you don’t worsen the problem by spreading fake law for cheap applause. Speak truth.
The government has been told. Is Johnson listening? Because I doubt Home Secretary, Patel is…