Civil Justice is unaffordable for most people, more people are being forced to represent themselves, and judges – whose pensions have been cut – feel underappreciated, according to the Lord Chief Justice.
In his annual report to Parliament, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd welcomed the Government’s commitment to spending £780m on modernisation and new technology but delivered a downbeat assessment of the courts in England and Wales.
“Our system of justice has become unaffordable to most,” Thomas said in the introduction to his report. “In consequence there has been a considerable increase of litigants in person for whom our current court system is not really designed.
“Although in common with many other European states the number of court buildings has been reduced through closure, the failure to invest has meant that many of the courtrooms have not been modernised and lack modern means of communication to provide for better access to justice.”
Thomas, the head of the Judiciary in England and Wales, said that judges, in common with many other people, felt their burden of work had increased. “For example, they are having to handle an ever-increasing quantity of challenging and emotionally charged cases in family and crime, as well as an increase in litigants in person,” he said.
“Although judges recognise that they are well paid in comparison to most people, static pay … and adverse alterations to pension arrangements … have had a significant impact. In addition, there has, overall, been a widespread feeling of not being valued or appreciated for their work.”
It’s not just Judges but everyone in the Criminal Justice System, is having to adjust with cutbacks, heavy Court Listings, cases not being effective, a rush to take instructions on limited disclosure and the list goes on.
Our Criminal Justice System was seen by many to be the best in the world, but with ever increasing cut backs it is now a shell of its former self. The notion of Justice being served now seems to be how quickly cases can be pushed through the Courts and this inevitably leads to a miscarriages of justice. Our Legal System as it stands can quite reasonably be compared to a conveyer belt in a factory. It is not the quality of the service offered to the Client that counts, but rather the quantity of cases that can be brought to a conclusion in the shortest space of time. Criminal Defence Practitioners have fought hard against this, however it is a struggle that is by no means concluded.
Despite surmounting pressure from the Courts, coupled with Government cut backs to the Legal Aid System, we as Defence Solicitors still hold on tightly to our duty of care to clients and strive to offer the best quality of service.