The ‘march of managerialism’ and a desire to speed up proceedings have led to a drop in the value put on justice by the government and society, according to the retiring director of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association.
Rodney Warren (pictured) has announced that he will step down as CLSA director on 30 June, 10 years after taking up the appointment. He told the Gazette that over the past 15 years he has seen a ‘deterioration in the value that the government, and as a consequence society, has placed on justice’.
Warren said that numerous justice ministers and governments had taken a consistent approach guided by officials. ‘The theme is that legal aid has not been highly valued as a part of the fabric of the rule of law in this country,’ he said.
This has resulted in a conflict between protecting suspects’ rights and securing convictions speedily. ‘The biggest problem is that we have a centralised process of government and a centralised media system, so everyone sees the same stories of note, which are often about crime.’ Such stories, he said, encourage attacks on the criminal justice system. ‘This creates a spiral of decline, which is also damaging for civil legal aid,’ he added. Warren said the wish to speed up justice has caused a ‘march in managerialism’ that has seen the emphasis shift away from expertise and support for the legal system towards process and civil service oversight.
On the Legal Services Commission, Warren said the increasing scrutiny of the National Audit Office may be welcomed as protecting the public purse, but it has increased managerialism and bureaucracy, making the LSC ‘almost afraid of itself’. He contrasted the UK’s approach with that being taken by the EU to strengthen its commitment to criminal justice. ‘The UK has opted out of some of the measures and appears to be going in the opposite direction,’ he added.