The justice system will break unless the prime minister gives criminal defence solicitors extra cash to cope with a predicted rise in cases, the Law Society has warned.
Boris Johnson has vowed to get tough on crime, handing the Crown Prosecution Service an extra £85m over two years to build capacity to ensure dangerous criminals are 'caught, locked up and punished'.
However, the Law Society said today that the extra money for prosecutors must be met with additional funding for criminal duty solicitors.
Simon Davis, president, said: 'Criminal legal aid fees have not increased since the 1990s, driving a shortage of defence solicitors. Without urgent action, in as few as five years’ time parts of the country will have no legal aid practitioners at all. Our justice system is already at breaking point. Focusing an increase in resources just at prosecutors will inevitably lead to more cases coming through our courts without adequate resource for those on the receiving end.'
The Ministry of Justice is reviewing criminal legal aid fees. However, the final report and recommendations won't be ready until late next year.
According to government figures, the criminal justice system dealt with 1.59 million people last year, the lowest number since 1970. The number of people prosecuted at court (1.38m) fell by 2% compared to 2017, with decreases in all offence groups except possession of weapons and summary motoring offences. Convictions rose in offences, with increases in sexual offences, possession of weapons and fraud, and decreases in robbery and theft.
Johnson has ordered an urgent review of sentencing policy, covering sentencing for the most serious violent and sexual offenders, the rules governing when and how they are released, and sentencing of the most prolific offenders. He has also pledged to recruit 20,000 police officers, and wants to extend stop and search powers.