Technological and operational flexibility in the administration of criminal justice were the main themes of a major review by Sir Brian Leveson into the efficiency of the legal system. The report by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court was published today amidst ongoing legal aid cuts and reforms that threaten the ongoing viability of public and criminal law.
Use of evidence gathered by police on video cameras mounted on bodies or helmets, and greater use of video and other conferencing technology across courts and prisons were two recommendations made by Leveson. He also called for magistrates’ courts to adopt more flexible opening hours. While processing the cases of those charged during the London riots in 2011, magistrates’ courts opened in the early morning and on Saturdays.
- You can read the full report here.
Sir Brian’s review covers the entire breadth of the criminal justice system.
‘The changes I have recommended are all designed to streamline the way the investigation and prosecution of crime is approached without ever losing sight of the interests of justice. As a society, it remains essential that we retain high quality lawyers to carry out publicly funded work. A more efficient system overall will allow all those involved in criminal justice to use their time productively with fewer hours wasted dealing with bureaucracy and less time lost through unnecessary delay.’
Sir Brian Leveson
The review has taken place against a background of sweeping reforms by the Government, including extensive cuts to the legal aid budget. Government plans to cut legal aid by £220 million were halted in September last year after a judicial review successfully challenged the Ministry of Justice consultation process, which the High Court judge found to be ‘so unfair as to amount to illegality.’
Since then the Ministry of Justice has re-conducted its consultation with criminal lawyers and increased the number of legal aid contracts on offer by two, bringing the total to 527. This is a reduction from 1600, meaning that two-thirds of legal aid firms will cease to exist. Firms offering criminal legal aid services will have to either fundamentally alter their business structure by merging or downsizing, or close altogether.
Author: Franck Magennis
Franck is a pupil barrister at Garden Court Chambers