Spring budget: family law given investment, but criminal legal aid funding absent

The UK government has today announced its spring budget, where it said it will invest in its early legal advice pilot. However, investment in the justice system as a whole is severely lacking.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the government will invest £170 million to deliver a modern justice system. Of this:

  • £55 million is for the family courts to offer earlier advice – including £12 million for its early legal advice pilot in the family court – to provide targeted guidance and shorten waiting times
  • £15 million will be spent to introduce digital solutions
  • £10 million will be used to invest in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for digitising jury bundles in the criminal courts

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said: “The government has been pledging to invest and modernise our justice system for years. We are pleased that some funding has been allocated, but it is nowhere near enough.

“We are pleased the government has listened to our concerns and chosen to invest in an early legal advice pilot which will help families seeking justice.

“Using early legal advice will help families get the justice that’s right for them, whether it’s mediation, litigation or non-court dispute resolution. Having the conversation early could mean a dispute is settled sooner, at lower cost and with less distress for the family.

“The family court system continues to face an uphill battle, with backlogs and delays still prevalent, but we hope these new reforms will go some way towards alleviating the stresses for families seeking justice.”

On criminal justice funding, Nick Emmerson said: “We are pleased the criminal courts will be given a funding boost, with an aim of reducing unnecessary trial delays.

“However, we are disappointed the government has failed to pledge any funding for criminal legal aid.

“This is despite the Law Society’s recent High Court victory, where the court warned of bleak consequences for criminal justice if the government does not inject significant further sums of money into the system.”

On court reform, the Law Society president said: “HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has been modernising the justice system to make it more straightforward, accessible and efficient for seven years. Its court reform programme is designed to improve courts and tribunals for court users.

“We are pleased money has been pledged to introduce digital solutions. However, our members tell us* that the government’s digitisation of the court system is adding to the delays plaguing the civil court system and undermining people’s access to justice when they need it most.”

Nick Emmerson concluded: “Today was a chance for the government to give the justice system the investment it so desperately needs.

“Too frequently it is said that justice is not a priority for this government, but we would hope recent events will call for reflection on how it supports our courts systems.

“The public do care about justice and are vocal about when it is lacking.

“Our justice system can no longer be ignored and we urge the government to properly invest in our justice system so the public can have confidence in it.”

Notes to editors

 *Read our online court services: delivering a more efficient digital justice system report.

The government also announced it is extending the timeline of some of its reform programmes. Find out more

Read about the spring budget 2024

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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