The public risks being ‘duped’ by the ‘drop in the ocean’ increase to the Ministry of Justice’s budget, lawyers have claimed in the wake of yesterday’s spending review.
Chancellor Sajid Javid announced that he has increased the MoJ’s resources budget for 2020-2021 by 4.9% in real terms. He also confirmed a 12.4% budget increase for law officers.
Javid promised £80m for the Crown Prosecution Service and £55m across the criminal justice system to support the work of 20,000 additional police officers. The policy paper makes no mention of legal aid.
Lawyers have criticised the Treasury’s announcement, arguing more money is needed for the justice department which has lost a quarter of its budget since 2011/2012.
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society, said: ‘An increase for the MoJ is certainly welcome. The money must however be directed to our crumbling justice system. In England and Wales, almost half of civil and criminal courts have closed. More than half of local authorities in England and Wales have no publicly funded legal advice for housing. Likewise, criminal legal aid fees for solicitors have not increased since the 1990s – in five years, there will be regions with no duty solicitors at all.
‘Investment solely for prisons or prosecution, beneficial though it may be, does not address these problems. The courts, criminal defence and civil legal aid must also receive desperately needed additional funds.’
Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘The public is in danger of being duped. Justice itself is still being short-changed…The Treasury’s promise of a single digit percentage increase - a small extra slice - is sized on a much smaller cake after a near decade of relentless MOJ cuts.’
She added: ‘The latest increase should only be seen as a glance towards a first step taken towards a sustained, seismic reversal of the continuous cuts to the MOJ budget over the past decade.’
The Bar Council said that while the increases are a ‘step in the right direction’ they are ‘drops in the ocean in budgetary terms’.