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Our Criminal Justice System and its Future

In the United Kingdom, the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is the collective body responsible for administering justice, and consists of various institutions such as the police, the crown prosecution service and the UK’s prison system. There are concerns regarding the CJS and its future due to drastic budget cuts implemented by the government. During 2009/10 the CJS was granted a budget of £9.1 billion pounds, but suffered from a cut just shy of 19%, decreasing the budget to £7.35 billion pounds in 2015/16. Since 2015, the budget has been raised amidst worries regarding the CJS and has reached a decade high of £8.05 billion pounds in 2019/20, yet many still are sceptical and have voiced their concerns about its future.

With the budget cuts which came into force after 2010, the workforce (specifically the number of police officers) was reduced and many see this as a direct consequence of the budget cuts. In 2010 there were 79,500 police staff working in England and Wales, yet after cuts there remained just 61,668 staff in 2016 (a sizeable cut of nearly 23%): Sadiq Khan Mayor of London said that these government cuts had “disastrous consequences for violent crime”. Whilst the police force is just one element of the CJS, the rise in violent crimes had knock-on effects for other institutions within the CJS, revealing weaknesses within the system.

Not only was the police force affected by cuts, but with the rise of crime there were increasing shortages of criminal duty solicitors, meaning people who have been arrested were not able to access a duty solicitor and thus the free legal advice they’re entitled to. These inefficiencies within the court created a disparity in terms of equality and hence exemplify how the CJS is “on its knees” as discussed by Criminal Bar Association chair James Milholland QC.

The shortcomings of the CJS unfortunately became exacerbated with the onset of the pandemic, as the backlog of unprocessed criminal cases were exposed to the public and Covid-19 restrictions only worsened the situation: currently there stand approximately 45,500 unprocessed criminal cases, yet evidence would suggest that this could rise to as high as 195,000 by 2024 if the government does not take serious action to reinvest into the CJS. In many cases, there were not the technologies in place to accommodate for restrictions and virtual court hearings, which lead to the increase in the backlog of cases.

Unprocessed criminal cases can result in serious issues for the accused as they are left in limbo as to when their court hearing will go ahead. Often, the accused will be suspended from work as they await for their trials to go ahead, which can result in financial instability and personal losses. Many experts have suggested that more needs to be done in order to improve criminal legal aid, to “ensure that the legal aid market can adapt to the changing criminal justice system, while continuing to provide high-quality advice and representation” (Ministry of Justice). When more is invested into the CJS, improvements will be implemented, ensuring the CJS can adapt to the rising backlog in the number of cases, whilst simultaneously providing professional and effective support for those affected.

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Should you have any concerns regarding a court case or if you seek representation, please do not hesitate to contact Noble Solicitors on 07000 81 82 83 and with our expert team of criminal lawyers, we will endeavour to assist you.

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