A recent Law Society report has led to court buildings across England and Wales being described as “shambolic” in a damning indictment of the chronically underfunded justice system.
The Law Society of England and Wales surveyed solicitors about whether the court infrastructure is fit for purpose.
Some two thirds said the physical state of the courts has caused delays in cases being heard over the last 12 months. Such delays and cancellations have left their clients in limbo, being denied access to justice and having wasted time and costs.
Indeed, one respondent said part of an air conditioning unit in a magistrates court fell and hit their head a few years ago, and when they last visited it still had not been mended.
“The poor state of court buildings across England and Wales is both a contributor to the huge backlog of court cases and a stark illustration of the lack of investment in our justice system,” said Law Society President Lubna Shuja.
“Government after government have not only failed to invest in infrastructure but failed to invest in people too – the judges, court staff, solicitors and barristers who keep the wheels of justice turning and have made our justice system the envy of the world.
Decades of damage cannot be reversed overnight, but urgent action can halt this decline before it’s too late.”
The Law Society subsequently published its five-point plan for fixing the courts system and reducing backlogs, which is as follows:
- Investing in buildings, staff, and judges so that valuable court time is no longer wasted by delayed repairs or not enough court staff and judges
- Properly funding legal aid to ensure there are enough legal aid firms to handle civil and criminal cases
- Keeping cases out of the courtroom by properly funding legal aid for early advice
- Installing reliable technology which can drive efficiency in the courts, saving time for lawyers and judges alike. However, rolling out unfinished or untested software drives delays and costs
- Better data collection will shine a light on where investment is needed and what interventions and technology are improving efficiency
”HM Courts and Tribunals Service is aware the court estate needs fixing and urgently needs to put into practice the steps set out to make that improvement,” concluded Shuja.