Justice is yet again coming under threat in the UK. With a government hell bent on cutting expenditure, the justice system is proving an easy targets for cuts. These cuts, whilst widely criticised, are only now starting to result in the inevitable: injustice. The most obvious cuts have been to legal aid budgets: this is not new of course, governments have been cutting the legal aid budget for years – but it has now reached crisis point, with criminal lawyers leaving the profession and ineffective defence lawyering becoming widespread. These cuts are proposed to be 40% – see here…
These cuts in addition of course to the privatisation of the court interpreting service, which I have blogged about previously.
Recently, we had the closure of the UK’s Forensic Science Service in March 2012 – while lone voices raised serious concerns about this (and I have blogged about this previously) and the risks of miscarriages of justice, the public may finally be starting to sit up. The BBC recently aired a Radio 4 documentary highlighting the risks of flawed forensic science (news item contains link to radio programme):
We are now being warned that budget cuts to the Criminal Cases Review Commission – the body specifically tasked with investigating possible wrongful convictions – is leaving the organisation so cash-strapped it is taking short-cuts and delays are lengthening. The case of Kevin Lane and his fight to get the CCRC to refer his case back the Court of Appeal is just one example:
All of this comes on top of 20% across the board cuts to the police, with some forces cutting their forensic budgets by up to 40% to ‘protect’ frontline policing. Michael Mansfield now warns the government that treating the justice system as a business risks the entire system with creeping deregulation. The cost of wrongly imprisoning someone (and leaving someone else free to commit more crimes) is difficult to calculate in simple economic terms – the government needs to realise that all these cuts will end up with far greater costs – to public confidence in justice, and the ability of the police and courts to arrest and prosecute the right people. This is too high a cost to bear: