The FDA has officially launched its Manifesto for Justice: a document designed to save the UK’s Criminal Justice System.
Following real-terms pay cuts of up to 20% for Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutors and 42% for criminal defence lawyers as well as a cumulative 40% real-terms cut in the justice budget over a ten-year period – more than any other department – the Criminal Justice System is under immense pressure.
The Manifesto is supported by both the Bar Council and the Law Society, and endorsed by the Secret Barrister. It outlines the impact chronic underfunding and the explosion of digital evidence has had on prosecution, defence and the Courts, and makes four key demands to address them. Specifically, it asks for a properly resourced CPS; a halt to legal aid cuts; investment in digital disclosure; and competitive pay and fees to sustain the Criminal Justice System.
The document is accompanied by a petition to Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking him to meet these demands.
Speaking at its 1 May launch event, FDA President Fiona Eadie explained that “as things stand today, the CPS remains over 100 prosecutors short of its own resourcing model. So, what does that mean? Well, it means a service where members are struggling to hold the system together, run on extraordinary effort but a fast diminishing good will. There is a strong sense of duty, but they can’t and they shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“Headlines about disclosure have shown how digital media presents a huge challenge for the justice system… The answer to meeting this challenge will not be quick or simple, but it’s clear that it will require investment from central Government. It will not be met by devaluing the expertise of lawyers.”
Vice President of the Law Society Simon Davis described the struggle to recruit and retain criminal lawyers. As the Manifesto explains, budget cuts and low pay and fees have pushed professional away from this area of law.
“We’re going to end up with a double whammy: people leaving at the top, and no-one coming in at the bottom,” Davis said. “And that is what I call a justice desert. That’s why the Law Society is very proud to stand alongside the FDA at the launch of this very important manifesto.”
Chair of the Bar Council Richard Atkins QC lamented that “justice seems to have been forgotten by Government,” and cited “crumbling courts” and IT not fit for purpose as “tangible examples of the problems” criminal justice in this country is facing.
The Manifesto’s message, he argued, “needs to be heard… We must press this; we must keep pressing this. We will do so, we have done so, and we’re delighted to do so with the FDA.”
Eadie concluded the launch by urging all present to sign the FDA’s Petition for Justice.
If you would like to help our campaign, please sign and share our petition. We will be presenting it to the Chancellor later this year, and would like to show him as many signatures as possible to prove that the UK public cares about the rule of law, and want to continue to see justice served.