When we ask legal or economics experts about jurisprudence and economics suddenly we get the reality. When we ask clueless nobodies we get white noise. Let’s get back to the former and never enable the latter.

Here Judge Rinder explains how the crushing of legal aid access to the vulnerable leads those who cannot afford the best legal representation to flounder in the criminal justice system. As he says people can shout ‘they are guilty’ until it happens to you and you find yourself with a sentence that is not fair and proper simply because you could not afford the best representation. All the while the fats cats walk free.

Another fascinating point I picked up on is how his explanation supports Marx’s analysis of dialectics. Social change does not occur naturally but due to competing forces in constant contradiction.

It is not a sudden event as to why Barristers are going on strike. This is the outcome of multiple actions by the Tory government over years which have eroded the criminal justice system and now the barristers have reached a tipping point and have had enough.

Let’s take Peter.

This video tells the story of Peter, who is on a night out with friends when a fight breaks out. Although he was not involved in the fight, Peter finds himself charged with affray.

It’s just the beginning of a nightmare journey through the criminal justice system.

Why the Law Society consider the legal system is broken:

Due to many years of underinvestment our criminal justice system is crumbling.

Things are going wrong at every level and every stage. It’s become a nightmare journey through the system for the accused, for victims and for solicitors alike.

We’re calling on government to address the problems by adopting our policy recommendations on criminal justice.

Problems facing the system

Increasing shortages of criminal duty solicitors

Within five years, there could be areas in England and Wales where people who have been arrested will not be able to access a duty solicitor. This means they won’t be able to get the free legal advice they’re entitled to.

Find out more about the shortage of criminal duty solicitors  

People on low incomes aren’t able to access legal advice, or are having to pay contributions towards it which are higher than they can afford.

Read our report on legal aid means testing  

Inefficiencies and unfairness in the system

Cases in court are often ‘double booked’, so some hearings get cancelled at the last minute. Things like this waste the accused’s and their solicitor’s time and increase costs.

Release under investigation and pre-charge bail

The use of release under investigation (RUI) has increased dramatically since changes were placed on the use of bail in 2017.

The RUI procedure has no time limit and no conditions are placed on release. This means that the accused, and victims, are left in limbo for long periods.

Read more about RUI

In May 2020, we responded to the government’s consultation on pre-charge bail, supporting the proposed model that retains the shortest of time limits in relation to pre-charge bail.

The government’s reform of pre-charge bail is part of the Police, Crime and Sentencing and Courts Bill, on which we’ll be briefing parliament.

Read our response

More and more courts are being closed

Defendants and witnesses are having to make unreasonably long and expensive journeys to court.

Find out more about court closures

Crucial evidence is often not disclosed

Important evidence sometimes is not made available until the last minute, or isn’t disclosed at all. This can mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment.

All of these problems show the criminal justice system is at breaking point. Without urgent action, it will fall apart.

Our parliamentary briefings

We asked government to spend more money to help resolve criminal justice issues.

Read our January 2019 parliamentary briefing

We’ve raised concerns about the impact changes to pre-charge bail and the increased use of remote hearings will have upon court users, as well as the importance of funding the criminal justice system properly.

Read our 2021 parliamentary briefings on the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill

Jason Cridland

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