Back our criminal justice campaign

We're calling on the government to address the problems in our crumbling criminal justice system by adopting our policy recommendations.

An update from our president, Nick Emmerson, following our meeting with lord chancellor Alex Chalk on Monday 29 April:

“We had a constructive meeting with the Lord Chancellor following our judicial review victory in January.

“The Lord Chancellor has agreed to closely engage with us further, following the government’s original decision not to increase criminal defence solicitors’ legal aid rates by the independent review recommended 15%, as we seek to secure a sustainable funding model for the sector. We made clear the urgency of making a decision as quickly as possible."

Due to many years of underinvestment our criminal justice system is crumbling.

Things are going wrong at every level and every stage. It’s become a nightmare journey through the system for the accused, for victims and for solicitors alike.

With the right reforms, we can strengthen access to justice and make sure our system works for everyone.

We’re calling on government to address the problems by:

Support the campaign by sharing our messages on criminal justice on LinkedIn or X (formerly known as Twitter).

Problems facing the system

Increasing shortages of criminal duty solicitors

Duty solicitors in England and Wales are on call day and night to make sure people who have been arrested can get the free legal advice they’re entitled to.

But duty solicitors are being driven out of the sector.

One in four have stopped providing representation at police stations since 2017.

Check if your local area is short on criminal duty solicitors

Read more about the criminal legal aid review

Law Society wins High Court battle

The High Court has ruled in the Law Society’s favour in our judicial review against the Ministry of Justice.

Evidence from our members showed “the system is slowly coming apart at the seams”. Now, the government must rethink its irrational decision on criminal legal aid funding before the system collapses.

Find out more about our judicial review victory

The means test for criminal legal aid must be linked to inflation

Six million more people will be eligible for free legal advice under government proposals, following our campaign.

We’re pleased the government has taken steps to widen who can qualify for legal aid, and listened to our concerns on how the original proposals would disadvantage single parents.

However, all the thresholds need to be increased regularly with inflation. Without this, the cost-of-living crisis will mean more and more people are going to fall back through the justice gap.

Find out how the means test is changing

Inefficiencies and unfairness in the system

Leaking courtrooms, suspended repairs, missing staff and judges, and crumbling buildings all lead to cases being delayed.

Cases in court are often 'double booked', so some hearings get cancelled at the last minute. Things like this waste the accused’s and their solicitor’s time and increase costs.

See our five-point plan to fix key issues in our courts

Release under investigation and pre-charge bail

The use of release under investigation (RUI) has increased dramatically since changes were placed on the use of bail in 2017.

The RUI procedure has no time limit and no conditions are placed on release. This means that the accused, and victims, are left in limbo for long periods.

We're calling on the government to improve the law on pre-charge bail and release under investigation.

Read more about RUI

More and more courts are being closed

Defendants and witnesses are having to make unreasonably long and expensive journeys to court.

Find out more about court closures

Crucial evidence is often not disclosed

Important evidence sometimes is not made available until the last minute, or isn’t disclosed at all. This can mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment. 

A journey through the criminal justice system

Our video tells the story of Peter, who is on a night out with friends when a fight breaks out. Although he was not involved in the fight, Peter finds himself charged with affray.

It’s just the beginning of a nightmare journey through the criminal justice system.

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