Tue, 03 Apr 2018
The relevant section begins at 11.05am (listen on catch-up at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xjhkp#playt=1h06m30s)
The Emma Barnett show hosted by Anna Foster covered some important topics in the Criminal Justice System:
1) The action being taken by barristers to protect the quality of criminal justice in England and Wales (see below);
2) the coming to an end of the DPP's tenure (see https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/apr/02/alison-saunders-quit-director-of-public-prosecutions-cps and https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/alison-saunders-public-prosecutions-dpp-leave-stand-down-cps-controversy-rape-trials-a8284486.html); and
3) the announcement by Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick that the police approach to sexual complaints will be open-minded and to fairly investigate (for example see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/police-ditch-practice-of-believing-all-victims-jsg6qd2ws and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5569145/Met-abandons-policy-automatically-believing-rape-complainants.html and https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/it-isnt-all-about-victims-met-police-to-abandon-practice-of-believing-all-sex-assault-complaints-a3803791.html).
The Commissioner told the Times newspaper that "I arrived saying very clearly to my people that we should have an open mind, of course, when a person walks in. We should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them. We should record what they say. From that moment on we are investigators.”
Barristers have voted to stand united for the protection of a standard of legal aid defence that allows the public to maintain pride in the system of justice, and access to justice for those who require legal aid work.
The Criminal Bar Association has explained that as the late and great Court of Appeal Judge Sir Henry Brooke recognised “This is not about money for lawyers. It is the liberties of England that are at risk".
The CBA explains that "the Criminal Justice system is collapsing. The relentless cuts and refusal to recognise the importance of a principled, and not political, approach has left us all reeling.
Very recently the disclosure crisis has highlighted the appalling state of our system. Prisons, courts, the police and probation services are underfunded and in chaos. The impoverishment of the system is well known to the government and MPs. In 2016, the Public Accounts Committee warned that the criminal justice system was close to breaking point. It is now broken.
The final straw has come for the Criminal Bar in the refusal of the government to invest in a scheme to pay for legal aid work. The profession’s fees have been relentlessly cut for over 20 years by nearly 40 per cent. There have been no increases whatsoever in all that time.
The criminal Bar faces a recruitment and retention crisis. Those from less privileged ba ckgroundsmust be able to see that a sustainable and viable career at the Criminal Bar is possible or they just won’t come. It is difficult for those with caring responsibilities to stay, which has an inevitable disproportionate impact on women in the profession.
This undermines the hard won progress made at the criminal bar on diversity and social mobility, with profound consequences for public trust as the judiciary, professions and institutions cease to reflect the communities they serve.
There is no provision for payment for consideration of disclosure in either the old or the new scheme. As has been recently seen the consideration of this material could make the difference between freedom and years inside prison.
There will be a £600m reduction in an already meagre and inadequate budget for the Ministry of Justice by 2019/20. Meanwhile the poor and vulnerable in society are being denied access to justice. Members of the public are at risk of miscarriages of justice and the faith of the public in the jury system is being undermined by the chaos in courts.
In planning more cuts, Ministers are making an unequivocal commitment to underfund the legal system, and are refusing to a provide a quality of justice the public is entitled to expect."
More explanation of why it has become vital and necessary to take this direct action can be seen here:
Philip Rule is a specialist in criminal and public law work.