The true scale of Britain’s neglect of law and order has been revealed in a new report out today which shows that the nation spends more on coffee each day than the Government spends on the justice system, including the police, despite a growing backlog of criminal cases of over 500,000.  

The worrying findings are published in a Bar Council report, Small Change for Justice, which showed that massive cuts to the justice budget by consecutive governments since 2010 has meant that in 2019, 39p was spent on protecting the public, the courts and wider justice system, per person per day (£144 per year). This is far less than many other government departments, bottom of the leader board in comparison with other European countries, and less than the amount spent by the nation on coffee per year (£153 per person per year).

The report comes at a time when the justice system of England and Wales is at breaking point from pressure caused by Covid-19 on top of a long-neglected justice system, with a mounting backlog of cases in the courts, long delays to cases, legal professionals struggling to stay afloat and in the wake of prosecutions collapsing.

Small Change, compiled by economists Professor Chalkley and Alice Chalkley and commissioned by the Bar Council, analysed spending on prisons (and probation) courts, legal aid, prosecution and, separately, the police between 2010 and 2019. The research found that overall funding for the justice system has declined by 29% in real terms per person since 2010.

However, the report also calculated how little additional funding would be needed to restore both the justice system and the police budgets to their 2010 levels and boost the Government’s manifesto commitment to law and order.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “Law and order is as much about keeping the public safe as it is about access to justice. We’ve seen what a lack of funding for law and order achieves – rising crime, low detection rates, long delays to cases with many collapsing before they get anywhere near a court, victims of crime denied justice,  and all because government after government has scrimped on the justice budget. 

“Compared to other countries and other Whitehall budgets, UK justice is the poor relation. For just small change – 22p per person more – the Government could put its money where its mouth is, commit to boosting law and order and protecting the public by investing the price of a packet of hobnobs per person per week in the whole justice system.”

The Small Change report compared spending per head on justice between 11 countries in Europe and found that England and Wales was one of only three jurisdictions, along with only Denmark and Ireland, to cut the amount it devotes to law and order. Of those three nations, the British government had made the largest justice budget cut.

The full report can be read here.

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