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News Round-Up Week Ending 26.6.15

(Posted on 26/06/15)


Michael Gove: 'dysfunctional'. 

In his first speech, the new Justice Minister promised rapid and radical reform to criminal justice through the greater use of technology.

“While those with money can secure the finest legal provision in the world, the reality in our courts for many of our citizens is that the justice system is failing them – badly. There are two nations in our justice system at present. On the one hand, the wealthy international class who can choose to settle cases in London with the gold standard of British justice. And then everyone else, who has to put up with a creaking, outdated system to see justice done in their own lives.

“The people who are let down most badly by our justice system are those who must take part in it through no fault or desire of their own: victims and witnesses of crime, and children who have been neglected. I have heard too many accounts of cases derailed by the late arrival of prisoners, broken video links or missing paperwork. The waste and inefficiency inherent in such a system are obvious. But perhaps even more unforgivable is the human cost. 

“It is the poorest in our society who are disproportionately the victims of crime, and who find themselves at the mercy of this creaking and dysfunctional system. Women who have the bravery to report domestic violence, assault and rape, our neighbours who live in those parts of our cities scarred by drug abuse, gangs and people trafficking. These are the people who suffer twice – at the hands of criminals and as a result of our current criminal justice system.” 

"Michael Gove is perfectly correct to deplore a two-nation justice system, one for the rich and another for the poor,"   His Honour Barrington Black writes in the Guardian, "But he promulgates just such a system by continuing to cut the provision of legal aid for the poor.

"A wealthy person accused of a crime can have access to top-flight counsel and expensive solicitors who practise from ivory towers surrounded by beavering assistants, and can provide the service our courts show as an example to the world. However, for an impecunious person arrested and in a cell, the horror of his situation is overwhelming. There was a time until the last government, when that person could call upon someone of ability who knew how to advise him, and who could take up his cudgel if necessary.

"Mr Gove is doing a disservice to suggest that such facility is available under his regime, far less in the light of his further cuts. The availability through the traditional high-street solicitor, who depended upon his reputation for his work and his income, is just not going to be there. Solicitors and barristers have bills to pay, and when dependent upon legal aid scales they just cannot manage.