Sir, Waste, inefficiency and mishandled cases in the magistrates? courts are the tip of the iceberg. The Public Accounts Committee (report, Oct 19) did not examine the frequent failings of the prosecution at police stations and crown courts. Prisoners arriving late, lost evidence and ineffective court listings afflict the whole criminal justice system causing immense waste through adjournments and aborted cases.
Government efforts to improve the system have focused on cutting defence costs to the bone. Recent proposals by the Carter review to curb the rising costs of legal aid have the potential to put the system in further jeopardy. As a result, we fear there will be an acute shortage of legal aid solicitors in the future unless defence work is made viable.
The Government has been in denial about the failings of other parts of the criminal justice system for too long. Urgent action is needed now to improve the effectiveness of the police, prosecution and court service and to avoid the cost of their inefficiencies being passed onto defence solicitors on fixed fees.
Law Society President
Chair, Criminal Law Solicitors Association
Chair, Manchester Law Society Criminal Law Committee
Director, Legal Aid Practitioners Group
Chair, London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association