I have written a letter to Robert Buckland QC. A real one, in an envelope with a stamp! It may or may not be read but I am sending it just the same. Others might want to do the same. Someone once said that a single snowflake melts on your nose, but enough of them working together can close motorways. This is what I have sent.

Mr Robert Buckland QC,

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

7th October 2020

 

Dear Lord Chancellor,

I am writing to share serious disquiet about the virtual collapse of the Criminal Justice system and some recent political rhetoric about the cause. I have been a solicitor for 40 years. Although I rarely practiced in this area of law, it is still a matter of real concern. You will of course be familiar with the difficulties from your years at the bar and as a Recorder.

One example of the problems is the staggering delays in cases coming to trial. On many hearing days, there are courts sitting empty and unused. For example, during one week in August 2019, long before the Covid-19 pandemic, 12 out of 15 Courts in Southwark did not sit at all. During the same week, just 2 out of 6 courts in Leicester were sitting. These are just random examples. The BBC recently reported that some trials are currently being listed for 2023. In the meantime, defendants, witnesses, victims, and their families are left in limbo for years on end.  

So, we have the chaotic situation where trials are logjammed and at the same time, courts are not being used. This seems to be just one example of a system that is unable to function due to years of underfunding at all levels; from the police service, the CPS, Legal Aid, Court closures, reduced sitting days to name but a few. The impression is that justice is treated as a low priority by the government. There are not many votes in a functioning court system.

What is even more alarming is the statement by the Prime Minister on 6th October 2020 in which he blamed the legal profession –

“We’re also backing those police up, protecting the public by changing the law to stop the early release of serious sexual and violent offenders and stopping the whole criminal justice system from being hamstrung by what the home secretary would doubtless – and rightly – call the lefty human rights lawyers, and other do-gooders.”

I have never heard anyone suggest that the shambolic state of the courts system is caused by lawyers of any political persuasion. As you know, lawyers are simply trying to do their jobs in an increasingly hostile environment. At best this seems to be an attempt to deflect attention from the real cause of the problem. At worst this looks like an attack on the legal profession in general bearing in mind other recent, unfortunate, comments made by another minister.

As Lord Chancellor, you have sworn to –

“… respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and discharge my duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which I am responsible.”

I am writing to urge you to take action.

Firstly, I would ask you to address the serious issues affecting the courts and publicly correct the Prime Minister’s very misleading statement. I would also invite you to publicly affirm the government’s commitment to the rule of law. The current situation is nothing short of chaotic. It also risks putting the safety of hard-working lawyers at risk when they are blamed without any evidence.

I hope to hear that you will take quick and effective action under the terms of your oath.

Yours sincerely,