published: 26 November 2018
Leaking roofs, seats held together with gaffer tape, flooded toilets, broken heating and broken plug sockets. If our hospitals or schools looked like this, there’d be a public outcry. But these are our courts, so no-one really cares.
The cuts to criminal justice have become visible in the furniture of the court system, but they go much further than that. They are eroding the basic principles it operates under.
Next year, legal aid reaches its 70th birthday. It is a landmark principle that justice should be free to everyone, that publicly-funded legal advice should be available to those accused of a crime by the state.
But it’s not like that any more. Criminal legal aid is means-tested. Courts have closed all over the country. Those remaining are in a shocking state.
As if to coincide with its birthday, the stalled review of civil legal aid cuts will be published next year. Even the Conservative chair of the justice select committee, Bob Neill, admits the cuts have gone too far.
A few years ago, I marched alongside thousands of solicitors and barristers and a few grateful clients outside the House of Commons to protest against the strangling of our justice system. We were accompanied by then justice secretary Chris Grayling in the form of a paper puppet.