The Labour party is expected to press the government to urgently review its justice reforms after new party leader Jeremy Corbyn appointed Lord Falconer of Thoroton as shadow justice secretary.
Falconer, 63 was called to the bar in 1974 and joined Tony Blair's Labour government in 1997. As Blair's lord chancellor he oversaw the creation of the Ministry of Justice and the UK Supreme Court.
He has been shadow justice secretary since May this year when he replaced Sadiq Khan, who left the frontbench to concentrate on his campaign to become his party's candidate for the London mayoral election in 2016. Khan won the nomination on Friday with 59% of the vote.
Days before the Labour party leadership results were announced, Falconer said he hoped the new leader would embrace the task of fixing a ‘once much admired’ justice system as a priority.
Writing in the New Statesman, Falconer said lord chancellor Michael Gove was ‘failing in his constitutional duty to ensure that there genuinely is access to justice’.
The Labour peer said a ‘proper review’ of the government’s reforms on legal aid, rising court and tribunal fees, and judicial review were required ‘to understand their effectiveness and impact and make sure that we target the funds available and deliver the services in the most efficient way’.
Falconer welcomed reforms to make the courts more efficient and use technology better were welcome. But better use of technology offers ‘no meaningful solutions to those who can hardly read or write, or are not IT literate, and on their own they are not sufficient to address the problem that is the increasing lack of a level playing field’.
‘Minimum guarantees’, such as the right to be treated fairly at work or not be subjected to abuse, through ‘adequate, sustained legal advice and representation’ were needed.
The party’s policy, Falconer suggested, could include greater consideration of integrating social welfare advice with health and social care services.
Meanwhile, Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, has been appointed shadow attorney general.
McKinnell was appointed as shadow solicitor general by former Labour leader Ed Miliband as part of his first frontbench team in October 2010.
According to McKinnell’s website, she is a ‘passionate advocate’ for apprenticeships and introduced an Apprenticeships Bill in the House of Commons shortly after she was first elected in May 2010.