I write concerning the speech ‘Reshaping Justice’ by the lord chief justice.
A call for brave, courageous and radical thinking turns out to involve: the removal of jury trial for dishonesty offences, with the resurrection of the Auld proposals for an intermediary hybrid court to deal with them; the allocation of fraud cases to a judge and assessors; and an expansion of an inquisitorial role for judges to cope with the absence of lawyers caused by the withdrawal of state support.
This effectively amounts to the abandonment of an adversarial system, in favour of state functionaries becoming investigators and judges. It will have the consequence of further dismantling a numerous and independent legal profession.
This is about power and political choices. In terms of overall government spending, legal aid savings are a flea-bite. The attack on legal aid is ideological and no amount of efficiency, good IT practice and procedural rule changes will make up for the wholesale removal of litigants from scope and practitioners from their professions.
Let us be bold, courageous and radical by bringing the criminal justice system to a halt. Perhaps then we might find that the public purse is not as empty as it is professed to be.
Greg Powell, managing partner, Powell Spencer & Partners, London