Access to justice

Budget response: justice system given crucial investment

The UK government has taken a step in the right direction by reinvesting in our justice system in the autumn budget 2021, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We welcome news the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will have a £3.2bn increase in its budget to £11.5 bn in 2024-25, equivalent to a real-terms growth rate of 3.3% per year on average over the spending review period.

“In our submission to HM Treasury, we stressed the need for the MoJ’s budget to rise at least in line with inflation for the duration of the spending round and we are relieved the government listened to us.

“It is good news the government has committed to better access to justice by investing more than £1bn to increase capacity and efficiency across the courts system, tackle the growing court backlogs and help the system recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A healthy legal system is vital for individuals, businesses and achieving levelling up. Legal aid for people on lower incomes and efficient courts are pillars of a fair society. Few things are more empowering than the ability to uphold and protect our rights.”

£477 million has been allocated to fund the criminal justice backlog, to improve waiting times for victims of crime and reduce the Crown Court backlog from 60,000 cases to 53,000 cases by 2024-25.

£324 million has been committed to address the backlogs in the civil, family and tribunal jurisdictions, while more than £200 million is aimed at completing the MoJ’s court reform programme by 2024-2025.

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “We have long warned the civil legal aid sector is in a precarious state and urgent action needs to be taken – to give confidence and security to civil providers in the medium-term and to help them survive while a more lasting solution is found.

“It is with great relief that we learn that the UK government has listened to us and has pledged to invest in the sustainability of the civil legal aid market.

“The thresholds for means-tested legal aid will increase, which will expand access to justice for those who cannot afford it. We have long campaigned for this change, which means that millions more should be able to access justice in our courts. We are also optimistic that improvements are on the horizon for criminal legal aid.

“The money announced today will not solve all the problems afflicting our justice system overnight, but it is a step in the right direction. We encourage the government to build on this by fully funding the recommendations of the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid, restoring legal aid for early legal advice and ending the legal aid deserts that now stretch across most of England and Wales.”

Notes to editors

We will be responding to the budget in greater detail in due course

Read the autumn budget and spending review 2021 in full

Read our submission to HM Treasury

View our interactive legal aid deserts maps showing providers by local authority area (copyright: Law Society of England and Wales)

About the Law Society

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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