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Gove urges justice system overhaul

Published 23/06/2015

Michael Gove will launch a stinging attack on the "two-nation" justice system t hat allows the wealthy to enjoy "gold standard" services while "badly" failing many victims of crime.

The poorest are at the mercy of a "dysfunctional" system while the well-off can secure the finest legal provision in the world, the Justice Secretary will say.

Urgent reform of courts in England and Wales is needed to bring to an end flaws in the process that have an "unforgivable" human cost, he will urge.

In a speech to the Legatum Institute think-tank, Mr Gove is expected to say: " Despite our deserved global reputation for legal services, not every element of our justice system is world-beating.

"While those with money can secure the finest legal provision in the world, the reality in our courts for many of our citizens is that the justice system is failing them. Badly.

"There are two nations in our justice system at present.

"On the one hand, the wealthy, international class who can choose to settle cases in London with the gold standard of British justice.

"And then everyone else, who has to put up with a creaking, outdated system to see justice done in their own lives.

"The people who are let down most badly by our justice system are those who must take part in it through no fault or desire of their own: victims and witnesses of crime, and children who have been neglected."

In a robust assessment of the justice system, Mr Gove will say too many cases are derailed by the late arrival of prisoners, video links that do not work and missing paperwork.

Barristers in crucial cases have been left unable to make the best case possible for their clients because they receive documents just hours before appearing in court, he will add.

Reforms must be pushed through quickly to improve efficiency and end "excuses for failure" in the courtroom.

Mr Gove notably took on teachers and unions while driving through radical reform of schools during his time as Education Secretary.

He will say the case for change in the justice system has been "made most powerfully and clearly by the judiciary themselves".

Senior judge Sir Brian Leveson's recommendations earlier this year that courts must be streamlined should be "implemented with all speed".

Mr Gove will say: " The waste and inefficiency inherent in such a system are obvious. But perhaps even more unforgivable is the human cost. It is the poorest in our society who are disproportionately the victims of crime, and who find themselves at the mercy of this creaking and dysfunctional system.

"Women who have the bravery to report domestic violence, assault and rape. Our neighbours who live in those parts of our cities scarred by drug abuse, gangs and people trafficking. These are the people who suffer twice - at the hands of criminals, and as a result of our current criminal justice system.

"We urgently need to reform our criminal courts. We need to make sure prosecutions are brought more efficiently, unnecessary procedures are stripped out, information is exchanged by email or conference call rather than in a series of hearings and evidence is served in a timely and effective way.

"Then we can make sure that more time can be spent on ensuring the court hears high quality advocacy rather than excuses for failure.

"The case for reform is overwhelming."

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From Belfast Telegraph