Dramatic rise in number of unrepresented defendants in Crown Court

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Dramatic rise in number of unrepresented defendants in Crown Court

Legal aid cuts continued to devastate the criminal justice system as figures from the Ministry of Justice revealed an increasing number of unrepresented defendants in crown courts.

At the annual Bar Council conference in London over the weekend, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association flagged up figures from the Ministry of Justice showing that in 2018 up to 7.7% of those appearing at the crown court for their first hearings were not represented by a lawyer. In 2010, this figure was 4.9%. Caroline Goodwin QC said that an increase in litigants in person ‘builds in a time delay because their cases take longer’.

The MoJ statistics also showed that over the same period the proportion of those being unrepresented at any stage of their trial rose from 0.6% to 1%. Campaigners have responded to these figures saying that without people being able to access representation, the risk of defendants facing miscarriages of justice would be significant.

Defendants in the crown court are eligible for legal aid if their disposable income falls under £37,500 however they might have to make a contribution to the funding of their defence.

Caroline Goodwin also spoke out about the state of repair of court buildings.

She told the audience that as reported in the Guardian: ‘At the moment, 40% of criminal courts are sitting empty. You can’t get access to court. How is that access to justice? Unless there’s investment [the criminal justice system is] going to fail and falter.’

‘If the courts are not sitting then justice can’t be done. More sitting days. [We need to] reduce the backlog that is bound to increase. Give us buildings that work and, above all, invest in our criminal justice system. Our buildings are falling apart.’
Caroline Goodwin QC