We were delighted that Lord Chief Justice has launched our strategy for 2014-16. His speech – Reshaping Justice – was apt. The new strategy reflects a reinvigoration of our organisation, one which sees us return our focus to the proper working of our justice system. We launch our new vision at a time when that system faces unprecedented challenges, principally but not solely, driven by austerity.
Lord Thomas recalled the words of Sir Hartley Shawcross – the founding Chair of JUSTICE – at Nuremberg and those of Lord Atkin: “even during war laws do not fall silent”. Nuremberg, he noted, set the world a challenge – to “live in a world governed by the rule of law”.
The world has changed and the State has “retrenched” in the face of austerity. While cuts to the cost of justice have been made in the past, Lord Thomas expressed his view – shared by JUSTICE – that this time it is “very, very different”. He highlighted that the cuts to the system as a whole were around a third in real terms of the 2010 budget:
“Some would say that with such a dramatic reduction, our system will break. But that cannot be permitted. If it breaks, we lose more than courts, tribunals, lawyers and judges. We lose our ability to function as a liberal democracy capable of prospering on the world stage, whilst securing the rule of law and prospering at home”.
Lord Thomas set us all, as a unified legal community and a civilised democracy, a challenge – to reshape the system, so that it does not break, and to safeguard it for the future:
“Our task is therefore to ensure that we uphold the rule of law by maintaining the fair and impartial administration of justice at a cost the State and litigants are prepared or able to meet”.
Innovation and imagination are required. Areas for exploration include a less adversarial form of family court procedure; allocation of criminal trials to our higher courts and the investigation and trial of fraud cases. On the latter, Lord Thomas recalled his membership of a JUSTICE working party thirty years ago, suggesting that the health of our economy and the pre-eminence of London as a commercial hub would benefit from proposals for more vigorous and successful prosecution of fraud.
The proper consideration and radical reform of the operation of both our civil and criminal justice systems should be a priority:
“Our proper master is justice. And that is not only judges and lawyers who are the servants of justice but that all who live in countries committed to the rule of law, are such servants.”
The Lord Chief Justice called on JUSTICE to play a key part in the all-party and non-partisan analysis that must underpin this crucial work. He urged JUSTICE members to reshape justice and to provide ‘detailed, well-thought out and practical proposals setting out how that can and should be done’.
The Lord Chief Justice’s speech goes to the heart of JUSTICE’s new strategy which will see our staff and members working together for a justice system that works for us all.
Read the full speech of the Lord Chief Justice
Read the JUSTICE Strategy 2014-16
Press coverage of the launch
Inquisitorial system may be better for family and civil cases, says top judge – Owen Bowcott, The Guardian.
Lord chief justice helps politicians grasp courts’ ‘hot potato’ – Joshua Rozenberg, The Guardian.
Cuts require fundamental rethink, says lord chief – Catherine Baksi, The Law Society Gazette.
Overhaul the legal system, says top judge – Frances Gibb, The Times.
And coverage on Twitter