Michael Gove will say that the justice system is failing society’s poorest people in his first speech as Lord Chancellor today.
He will pledge to fix the “creaking and dysfunctional” court system and, echoing former Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, will describe a justice system divided into “two nations.”
“On the one hand, the wealthy, international class who can choose to settle cases in London with the gold standard of British justice. And then everyone else, who has to put up with a creaking, outdated system to see justice done in their own lives.
“The people who are let down most badly by our justice system are those who must take part in it through no fault or desire of their own – victims and witnesses of crime, and children who have been neglected.”
He will add: “I have seen barristers struggle to explain why a young woman who had the courage to press a rape charge should have had to wait nearly two years before her case was heard.”
“Reporting these offences in the first place must be a traumatic experience – made worse still by having to relive it in court two years later.
“I have watched as judges question advocates about the most basic procedural preliminaries in what should be straightforward cases and find that no-one in court can provide satisfactory answers.
“I have heard too many accounts of cases derailed by the late arrival of prisoners, broken video links or missing paperwork.”
“The waste and inefficiency inherent in such a system are obvious.”
However, the Ministry of Justice’s recent move to cut legal aid fees for criminal solicitors by 8.75 per cent is likely to affect poorer people rather than the ’wealthy, international class’. Many more people are now forced to represent themselves in court because they cannot afford a lawyer.
Gove will say that he would prefer to deliver a more efficient court estate rather than make even further legal aid cuts.
“It is still the case that many of our courts stand idle for days and weeks on end,” he will say. ”Last year over a third of courts and tribunals sat for less than 50 per cent of their available hours.”
”At a time when every government department has to find savings it makes more sense to deliver a more efficient court estate than, for example, make further big changes to the legal aid system.”
Labour MP and former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer has already responded to the speech. He tweeted: ”Gove right about 2 tier justice system which lets poorest down but honesty about responsibility of last govt needed.”
In an earlier speech, delivered last night at the Legatum Institute, Gove said that the most successful firms and chambers should do more pro bono.
“Those who have benefited financially from our legal culture need to invest in its roots,” he said. ”That is why I believe that more could – and should – be done by the most successful in the legal profession to help protect access to justice for all.
“I know that many of the most prestigious chambers at the Bar and many of the top solicitors’ firms already contribute to pro bono work and invest in improving access to the profession. Many of our leading law firms have committed to give 25 hours pro bono on average per fee earner each year. That is welcome, but much more needs to be done.”
- 11 Jun 15: Further barristers’ strikes a growing possibility as government pushes on with legal aid cuts
- 29 May 15: Arnold & Porter tops Thomson Reuters’ pro bono index – but only 26 firms in England provided data
- 21 May 15: “No other sector has borne such brutal cuts:” Criminal bar backs more strikes over legal aid reform
- 11 May 15: Five reasons why the relationship between Gove and lawyers is going to be messy
- 11 May 15: Grayling out as Michael Gove takes over at Ministry of Justice
- 23 Oct 14: Students to advise litigants in person in family courts