Lord Falconer: Criminal justice system in chaos

Parts of the country’s criminal justice system are in “general chaos”, the Lord Falconer has said.

The lord chancellor, who is responsible for legal affairs, made the remark at a conference of senior barristers in London yesterday.

Lord Falconer made the frank comments at a Bar Council gathering in response to a question from one barrister, who claimed that the reputation of the criminal justice system had suffered as a result of poor communication between police, prosecutors and the courts.

“There is general chaos in a number of cases,” Lord Falconer said.

But this is not always the case and is getting better, he commented, adding: “We all need to try and make it better.”

Nonetheless, his remarks have been seized upon by opposition politicians and commentators claim the admission will come as an embarrassment to the government, ahead of the announcement of new measures to tackle crime which are set to be unveiled by the prime minister this week.

“Finally a government minister has admitted what has been widely suspected for some time,” said Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg.

“Ten years of tough talk from Tony Blair and his home secretaries have led to systematic operational incompetence throughout our criminal justice system,” he added, stressing that overcrowded prisons, an increased fear of crime and high offending rates were the legacy of the government’s “shameless populism on law and order”.

Meanwhile, the organisation which represents and regulates solicitors in England and Wales told the BBC that government plans to reform legal aid may result in the closure of hundreds of legal practices.

The government states its proposals for lawyers to competitively bid for legal aid work, instead of providing services for set hourly fees, will increase the provision of legal aid advice.

But the Law Society estimates that as many as 800 law practices, equivalent to about a quarter of those who provide legal aid, may close as a result.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson told BBC Radio Five Live’s Report: “What we are seeing is a supply base of legal aid solicitors that is incredibly fragile and at extreme risk.”