Violence in court. Judges blame legal aid cuts

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Guardian reports on a written submission to MPs by the Judicial Executive Board, which blames legal aid cuts for outbreaks of courtoom violence.

The Board, made up of the most senior judges in England and Wales, highlights an increase in the number of 'litigants in person' – individuals appearing in court with no legal representation – due to legal aid cuts. In its submission the Board writes:

'LiPs [litigants in person] sometimes come to court with a group of friends and/or family for support. Tensions can run high between rival camps in the waiting area. Very occasionally there are significant outbreaks of violence. The smaller courts (typically the county courts) are not equipped to deal with such incidents. There is the potential for significant harm to judges, court staff and members of the public alike.'

Yesterday the journalist David Allen Green, who blogs as 'Jack of Kent', revealed that the Ministry of Justice was hiring 'head-hunters' to find lawyers willing to represent defendants in so called 'Very High Cost' cases. Some fraud cases are threatened with collapse following the shortage of lawyers willing to represent clients on the reduced fees the Ministry of Justice wants to pay.

Via Twitter, Green was also scathing about the decision by the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, to expand the Public Defence Service as an 'emergency measure' to cope with shortage of barristers willing to represent clients.