The lord chancellor has said on national television that he does not think the criminal justice system is close to breaking point. Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Robert Buckland QC MP was questioned about the findings of the government’s rape review and action plan, which were published last week.
The government has pledged to return the volumes of cases being referred by the police, charged by the Crown Prosecution Service and going to court, to at least 2016 levels by the end of this parliament.
Presenter Nick Robinson highlighted the findings of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s 2019 rape inspection report, in which 51% of managers said their unit was not staffed to the level set by the CPS resourcing model.
Buckland was asked if he agreed when the inspectorate said: 'There can only be an effective criminal justice system – and one in which the public have confidence – if it is properly resourced. The one we have has been under-resourced so that it is close to breaking point.'
He replied: 'We’ve faced some big challenges over the last decade – in fact, longer than that. I was in the criminal justice system before I was an MP. I had concerns about it going back more than 20 years. What I’m trying to do now is change that course, make sure there is the investment. I don’t believe we’re close to breaking point, but I do accept that there are pressures on the system which do cause some of the legitimate concerns that I’ve sought to address in the rape review.'
On the court backlog, Buckland said: 'Already we’re seeing good evidence that the tide is being turned. Numbers are starting to come down now, we’re seeing more cases dealt with than being received. We’ve got to maintain that work. If social distancing can be relaxed… then we can do even more. I think we’re making good progress. I see us getting numbers down, but more importantly getting the timescales down.'
Robinson repeatedly asked the lord chancellor about putting pressure on the Treasury for more cash for the courts.
Buckland said: 'The Treasury know my firm views on these matters. I’m working hard with them to get solutions and I’m seeing already the fruits of our labours in the form of numbers going down.'
Lawyers were not impressed by the lord chancellor’s comments.
Criminal barrister Joanna Hardy, of Red Lion Chambers, said on Twitter: '"I don’t believe we are close to breaking point" says Robert Buckland as I remind myself of cases in my diary in 2023, suspects released under investigation for *years* before charge and the fact it began raining *inside* a courthouse this week.'