The past week has brought us two key reports on the justice system, based on the lived experiences of people within the legal profession and across society as a whole. It’s not a pretty picture.
First up, a damning report from a select committee of cross-party MPs declaring little confidence in Ministry of Justice plans to deal with the justice backlog.
Hot on the MPs’ report came an equally damning assessment of the justice system from a cross-party committee of the House of Lords, which arrived – unsurprisingly – at similar conclusions.
Justice depends on government, declared peers, so the government needs to get its act together and come up with urgent measures to deal with the civil and criminal case backlog. And it must also inject considerably more cash into the legal aid system to “meet the reality of the need”.
Which begs the question: can government grasp the realities of the situation and, if so, will it be minded to take these reports seriously? Its track record – over 10 years to be exact – inspires little confidence.
Meanwhile, the UK justice system is edging closer towards being an unjust justice system. The committee report from peers warns that “our much-cherished justice system” is at risk – that the “quality of justice” is increasingly at risk.
Can substandard justice – whatever that looks like in practice – be justice at all? We know justice delayed is justice denied. The evidence is that justice in 2021 is not only delayed – it's a whole lot worse.
Our government owes its citizens more than that.