Home » Uncategorized » The Irreparable Damage that MoJ Cuts to The Criminal Justice System are Doing to Vulnerable Witnesses

The Irreparable Damage that MoJ Cuts to The Criminal Justice System are Doing to Vulnerable Witnesses

We have posted below an account from one of our members of yet another example of the trauma suffered by so many young and vulnerable witnesses that is entirely attributable to the myopic cost cutting of the Lord Chancellor, and his civil servants. it is a pity that it is dedicated and hard working counsel who has to face these witnesses and explain it to them, rather than those who are really responsible, hiding away in Whitehall, behind their Spin Doctors, whilst claiming they do all they can to PROTECT the vulnerable.

As our member says at the end

” For this reason I remain committed to action. Whether it succeeds in making any difference remains to be seen. But together we have the power to try. Divided we can do nothing. Which is why I hope that we will be resolute and strong. And why I will not be in Court on 7th March, or accepting returns thereafter.”

I have just, for the second time, prepared a trial involving traumatised children alleging serious sexual abuse. For the second time, the trial has been removed from the list the night before the trial because there is no court/judge available to hear it. When I met these children, at court at the pre (first) trial visit, they came clutching their “Going to Crown Court” booklets. The youngest told me he had been having nightmares about court and barristers and the defendant coming to get him. The Defendant was arrested  two years ago. The Complainants were desperate to get the trial over with and get on with their lives. I promised them that whatever happened, it would soon be over. The very next day it was removed from the fixture list. Today it was removed from the list for tomorrow.

 

 I don’t know whether these allegations are true – that’s not my remit. What I do know is that true or false, one side or the other, arguably both, are very ill served by a system that makes 6 year olds wait two years for a trial only to be told it isn’t going to happen when everyone said it would. Twice. Despite the government’s protestations about its care for the victims of crime, this is a disgrace.

 

 The Courts are not to blame. They can only do what they are funded to do. The MoJ keep cutting court staff and judges and sitting days. This trial gave way for trials equally serious and traumatic.

 

 

 Quite apart from the fact that I have now lost days prepping the case, and 8 days of diary time when I was booked to do it, earning nothing as a result, I am ashamed of the state of our criminal justice system and the way it is racing to the bottom. I am frightened for the future, when I see hard pressed CPS lawyers and case workers have their case loads doubled and tripled overnight, as they see experienced colleagues being made redundant, and local CPS offices close. They are left with little hope of doing their job as well as they wish it to be done, or as well as they need it to be done. Despite this I see them battle on, desperately doing the best that they can.

 

 I’m frightened when I see experienced barristers, with years of crown court experience leave the Bar, or move into alternative areas of practice. I wonder when I will do the same.

 

 I find it hard to look alleged victims and witnesses and defendants in the face when they ask me when trials will take place.

 

 For this reason I remain committed to action. Whether it succeeds in making any difference remains to be seen. But together we have the power to try. Divided we can do nothing. Which is why I hope that we will be resolute and strong. And why I will not be in Court on 7th March, or accepting returns thereafter.

 

 If I can’t stand up and be counted for a legal system I was so proud to be part of, who will? When?

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4 thoughts on “The Irreparable Damage that MoJ Cuts to The Criminal Justice System are Doing to Vulnerable Witnesses

  1. My Crown Court trial for tomorrow has also come out of the list for the second time due to lack of court time.The Defendant is on remand, the witness on tenterhooks. I agree out CJS is in a sorry state.

  2. When I began my career at the Bar cases would often reach trial 12 to 18 months after a defendant’s arrest. Over time these delays were reduced and that was an improvement in the system.

    In the last couple of years things have gone backwards at an alarming rate. I now regularly deal with cases where the original arrest was in 2012. Yes, that is right, I am now regularly dealing with cases that are approaching their second anniversary. These are not cases which are out of the ordinary in comparison with other Crown Court trials.

    This is the result of things like sex cases with vulnerable witnesses being listed as a floating trial and not being reached, a three week trial being removed from the list the Friday before it was due to commence because a court centre did not have sufficient “sitting days” left in its budget for that year and being refixed 7 months hence and the proliferation of videolink cases not being matched by sufficient courts with the equipment.

    The CJS is at a breaking point? The MoJ’s answer? Soundbites, pointless initiatives and cuts.

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