The FDA, the trade union for top civil and public servants, has called on the government to reverse the cuts to the criminal justice system in a manifesto it published on 1 May 2019 with the support of The Law Society and The Bar Council.
In the Manifesto for justice
, the FDA argues that the government cuts of recent years have impacted on both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and defence lawyers in the criminal justice system. It reports that the number of CPS lawyers is down by 28 per cent and those who remain are overworked. It also observes that criminal defence solicitors have had no increase in legal aid fees for 20 years, which equates to a 42 per cent pay cut in real terms.
The FDA believes poor pay and career prospects are leading to a shortfall in the number of lawyers specialising in criminal law. According to the FDA, over the past four years, while the number of solicitors with practicing certificates has increased by 7.8 per cent, the number specialising in criminal law has fallen by 9.4 per cent. It also argues that the ‘recent explosion of digital evidence’ is putting a strain on the system.
The manifesto contains four key demands, which are supported by The Law Society and The Bar Council:
•A properly resourced CPS – to protect the public with a robust and effective prosecution service.
•No more cuts to legal aid – to ensure that justice is available to all.
•Investment in digital disclosure – to maintain public confidence in justice.
•Competitive pay and fees – to recruit and retain lawyers for a sustainable criminal justice system.
The FDA is also asking people to sign a petition
to ensure the chancellor of the exchequer, Phillip Hammond, ‘takes drastic action to save UK justice’.