Inefficiencies in the criminal justice system
In 2013, the Ministry of Justice introduced two successive consultations on criminal legal aid, proposing significant cuts to the overall budget along with a number of structural changes including flat fees in magistrates' courts and the Crown court and a single national fixed fee for police station work.
The Law Society has consistently opposed cuts to fees as they pose a substantial risk to the sustainability of criminal defence providers. The impact on defence solicitors is particularly acute because of their position at the heart of the criminal justice system.
Criminal legal aid solicitors face the brunt of waste and inefficiency elsewhere in the system - from inadequately trained interpreters to delays in prisoner transport and poor court planning - exacerbating the already challenging conditions they face.
This page collates research, reports and information that highlight waste in the system. Members and practitioner groups may find it useful to refer to this data in their communications:
- Report on how the Ministry of Justice is handling the court interpreters contract (PDF). Capita has failed to hit its performance targets after two years, a report by the public spending watchdog reveals.
- Legal aid statistics 2012/13: these statistics confirm that while the government keeps saying it spends £2bn on legal aid, its own statistics reveal that it's actually less than that:
- Read the Legal Aid Agency Business Plan 2013/14 (PDF)
- International comparisons: view the Law Society infographic (jpg)
- Improving Efficiency in the Criminal Justice System report - in October 2011, the Law Society published a report showing significant savings that could be made in legal aid expenditure by introducing a number of efficiency measures such as electronic legal aid applications.
- Waste Week Survey (page 11): web survey of criminal practitioners on the causes of delay and inefficiency in the criminal justice process.
- Access to Justice Review (PDF) - in November 2010, the Law Society published its Access to Justice review, which outlines the importance of legal aid services to the protection of access to justice for UK citizens.
- Court delays website - this website invites solicitors and barristers to submit their experiences of court delays, which have a significant impact on legal aid budgets in the UK.
- Cost of recovery of contribution orders in the Crown court - an FOI request to the MoJ has revealed that of the total £43.6m owed to the government in Crown court contribution orders - since the scheme's inception in January 2010 - only £9.6m had been recovered, at a total cost of over £6m, as of March 2013. This inefficiency in the criminal justice system could result in considerable savings to the legal aid budget if tightened up. The information reveals that despite the MoJ paying Rossendales, the enforcement agency contracted by the government, over £6m in two and half years, nearly four times the amount it has managed to recover remains outstanding. The government should be focusing on obtaining greater efficiencies from its external contractors as a way of saving money.