‘An under-resourced justice system imposes costs on society and damages economic welfare. Short-term savings may result in long-term burdens.’
This is according to a November 2018 report (pdf) from the Bar Council on the functioning of the justice system in the age of austerity.
The paper provides an overview of the effects of austerity on the resources that government has devoted to the justice system. It looks at the extent of the reduction in resources, where this reduction has been focused, and the implications of this for our wider society.
It finds that:
- The belief that cuts to funding for justice are an inevitable consequence of austerity is incorrect – the government has in fact expanded its overall real expenditure over this time period.
- While the economy has grown 13% in real terms, and government expenditure has risen accordingly, over the same time period, funding to the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service and to Legal Aid have all been reduced.
- The justice system is increasingly relying on user charges and other sources of income – these now constitute 20% of total spending.
- Published statistics to aid in understand the functioning of the court system over time are lacking – the report suggests that HM Courts and Tribunals Service should commit to resolving this.