With a sizeable majority secured, the eyes of the legal profession now turn to Boris Johnson and his government and how they intend to run the justice system.
The Law Society said today that repairing the system and championing the rule of law should be priorities of the new administration, alongside negotiating a future trade deal with the European Union.
Society vice president David Greene said Johnson takes office once more with the justice system of England and Wales ‘on its knees’.
‘Years of underfunding have led to crumbling courts, a crisis in criminal justice and growing numbers of vulnerable people refused legal aid and unable to enforce their rights,’ said Greene.
The Society called for restoration of legal aid for early advice in housing and family matters, a rise in criminal legal aid fees and a guarantee of no future real-terms cuts, and an increase in the legal aid means test.
The Criminal Bar Association echoed those sentiments and made clear that the justice system needs urgent injections of funding.
CBA chair Caroline Goodwin QC said: ‘There is no option left for any government but to invest properly and substantially in the criminal justice system from end to end. To do anything less would be criminally reckless with all our lives – rich or poor, state or private, we are all in this together.’
The Conservative manifesto made no spending pledges on justice, instead pledging to establish a Royal Commission – probably next year – on the criminal justice process.
The Tory victory is likely to mean that the Civil Liability Act, reforming the way personal injury claims are made, comes into full force, although there remain questions about the viability of the April 2020 implementation target.
The manifesto made pledges to ‘update’ the Human Rights Act and administrative law. It also pledged to ensure judicial review – while available to protect the rights of the individuals against an overbearing state – was not ‘abused to conduct politics by another means’ or to create needless delays. A commission is expected to examine these issues within the next year.
Civil rights campaigners have expressed their concern that Johnson may seek to restrict access to judicial review and make sweeping changes to the Human Rights Act.
Issuing a rallying call to new members today, rights group Liberty said its work now begins to see off an ‘attack’ on the HRA. The group added: ‘Our very democracy is under threat with this government that wants to put itself above the law.’