Ahead of the Spring Budget on Wednesday, the Chair of the Bar Council has warned that the ongoing failure to invest properly in justice will lead to much larger spending costs in other departments, as well as a failure to tackle the delays endemic to the justice system.

Public funding for justice in England and Wales has declined by 22% in real per person terms between 2009/10 and 2022/23. Unlike some frontline public services, justice spending is not protected.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) pre-Budget analysis last week highlighted that any cut in taxes will result in unprotected areas, such as justice and local government, seeing a bigger squeeze, taking account of inflation. The Bar Council warns that the justice system cannot cope with further cuts and argues that investment is desperately needed.

Commenting, Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

“The justice system is a fundamental public service, but it has been starved of necessary funding for years. This is a false economy – every penny stripped from the justice sector increases costs elsewhere, through court delays and impacts on other services, such as housing, benefits, and schools. 

“The criminal and family justice systems are running at boiling point. Over the last decade, funding has declined and services have diminished while demands have increased and are set to increase further. The system cannot survive further cuts.

“Justice should be seen as an area where the government can spend to save. We need urgent investment to repair our crumbling court buildings and facilities, funding for early legal advice to reduce the strain on the courts, and an injection of money into legal aid fees to stem the exodus of legal professionals from publicly funded work.”