Rule of law is key to Brexit - QCs

Rule of law is key to Brexit - QCs

Justice system essential to fair society say British senior counsel



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Leading lawyers have said that Britain’s legal system is its most prestigious and important asset, post-Brexit.

And they have called for significant investment in the rule of law, declaring that it depends on a properly-funded court system.

If £3bn can be found to repair the Houses of Parliament, then money must be available to invest in justice – it is not an optional extra, but an essential element in a fair and tolerant society, the barristers say in their letter.

Rule of law is key to Brexit - QCs

Rule of law is key to Brexit - QCs

The letter is signed by Queen’s Counsel Francis FitzGibbon and Angela Rafferty, who are chair and vice chair of the Criminal Bar Association.

In their letter dated 12 May 2017, they say that successive governments have allowed the criminal justice system in Britain to degrade, through lack of proper investment.

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In particular, they have called for repair to the collapsing fabric of court buildings in Britain and the reversal of legal aid cuts. 

Policy has been characterized for too long by hasty, ill-thought out measures, the letter continues. Apparent cost savings and efficiencies have brought the criminal courts to their knees, and shifted costs elsewhere, the statement says.

The letter continues: "There has been blue-sky thinking, but not enough practical, real-world problem-solving.

"Things need to work now if they are going to work in the future. The neglect has to stop. The incoming administration must at least:

  • Recognise criminal justice as equal in importance to civil and commercial, and invest in the people who are needed to restore and maintain its reputation. 
  • Reverse the cuts to legal aid: fees have been cut by over 30% since 2007. If not, the supply of future leaders and judges will dry up.
  • Support the independent criminal Bar, which works in the public interest and represents excellent value for money.
  • Commit to the proposals in the Ministry of Justice’s 2015 paper Preserving and Enhancing the Quality of Criminal Advocacy 
  • Bring in defence advocates panels, ensuring only advocates of the highest quality do the most serious work
  • Rationalise the system of payments
  • Root out bad practices
  • Repair the collapsing fabric of Court buildings
  • Promote equality and diversity with more family-friendly working practices
  • Retain the Human Rights Act as a powerful protector of victims: remember that the Hillsborough Inquest would not have happened without it.

It continues "Violent crime is rising and the system is dealing with a tsunami of highly sensitive sex cases, which are set to occupy it for years to come – it is imperative that enough investment is put in, across the sector, to ensure that the rights of victims and defendants are upheld.

"Lack of resources will delay justice, and we know what justice delayed means," the letter states.

The Criminal Bar Association represents 4000 criminal barristers who prosecute and defend in courts throughout England and Wales.

At a glance

  • Investment in the rule of law is not an optional extra, say QCs, but an essential element in any fair and tolerant society.
  • Calls for repair to collapsing fabric of court buildings in Britain
  • Immediate reversal of legal aid cuts is essential say senior counsel
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