We have all devoted many pages, many hours and many words to dissecting the proposals of our current LC, Mr Grayling, and of his MoJ apparatchiks.
We in the system know that it is already creaking and groaning under the strain of years of cuts and of lack of investment. The CPS are farcically underfunded, understaffed and underachieving. Courts are being shut down left, right and centre.
These cuts have been ongoing for many a moon now, so before we even begin to contemplate how much worse can it become…..let’s see how bad it is now, already.
Due to the closing of Magistrates Courts and the cutting of all resources, not least staffing etc, there are numerous instances on a daily basis throughout the country of Magistrates Courts where there are 2 to 3 half day trials and 1 whole day trial scheduled for the same day in the same courtroom in front of the same bench. Grayling may be able to do many things but he canna change the laws of physics.
Add to this the nightmare that is legal aid contributions and means testing, and you get the perfect storm for endemic delays in the system. Cases cannot get on quickly because the Legal Aid has not been granted yet – so one limb of the state stymies the other. And so it goes on.
Into the mix now comes the pantomime villain – the CPS. Error on error on error, compounded and compounded.
Look at the recent case of R. v Ipswich Magistrates Court ex p DPP – with thanks to Andrew Keogh and Crimeline as usual….
It is a sorry saga of error, problem, delay and frustration. To be noted, NOT of the making of the defence. But rather of the State in one guise or another. Due to paucity of investment, lack of resources and short-termist cuts.
Who loses out? Hypothetically, the defendant had his case prolonged and delayed and was not able to have his day in court and achieve a true acquittal.
More importantly (and I am no advocate of a victim-led CJS) here the complainant and her family certainly did not get justice. Mr Justice Mitting agreed without qualification.
But this was not failing of the law. This was no failing of the defence lawyer. This was State funding causing issue after issue, delay upon delay – causing stress and anxiety. The State’s underfunded, demoralised and oft inefficient CPS making a right balls-up throughout.
What could have been done differently? Adequate funding to have adequate staffed courts open to cover all trials necessary. A more sensible means-testing that is a post hoc system rather than a pre-condition, causing endemic and otherwise avoidable delays. An adequately funded CPS that knows what it’s doing from beginning to end.
All of these improvements could and should be made.
Sadly, if Grayling gets his way there will be no improvements – funding will be cut further, more courts will be closed, the CPS will get worse and the Defence will spiral downwards to join them in the lowest common denominator.
Is that the shape of things to come? Is that the shape you want?
Because there can be no doubt that many, even all, of the proposed “changes” (or “cuts” as they are known in English) will serve not to improve the situation but make the problems ten times worse.
So please help #saveukjustice, sign the petition http://t.co/CKnuXzXr55, write to your MP, to the Justice Committee, otherwise it will be too late.
The Criminal Justice System can still be saved, it can be fixed, but if Grayling gets his way, we will reach the point of no return and the damage to Justice will be mortal.