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A pale imitation of justice

An increasing inequality of arms and a 'pot luck' approach to supporting unrepresented defendants is putting the integrity of the justice system at risk, says Penelope Gibbs

7 June 2016

'I worry about the outcomes for unrepresented defendants more than anything else… I think we
have a victim court culture now… there are so many ways to catch a defendant out that weren't there five years ago… I just think they are at a massive disadvantage, but they don't know it' (prosecutor).

Prosecutors could see unrepresented defendants as 'easy game', but they do not. They are concerned the court room has become an uneven playing field - a 'pale imitation of justice'.

The issue came to light because Transform Justice, the charity of which I am director, recently published research on the experience of unrepresented defendants in the criminal courts. We focused on magistrates' courts because a higher proportion of defendants (20-25 per cent) represent themselves there - though there are still 6 per cent without an advocate in ...

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