Chancellor Pledges Millions to Justice System in Spending Review

£275 million has been pledged towards reducing court backlogs and hiring 20,000 new police officers, among other pledges.

During the UK government’s 2020 spending review, chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to invest £275 million in the criminal justice system in 2021/22 in a bid to address the growing backlog in courts and tribunals.

Sunak announced that the Treasury’s settlement with the Ministry of Justice would deliver a 3.3% increase in annual real terms. Core resource funding will also be increased by £145 million, and the department’s capital budget will be increased by £237 million in 2021.

£337 million pounds in extra funding was pledged towards the criminal justice system to ensure “swift and effective justice” to convicted offenders and to support victims. This pledge includes £275 million to manage the “downstream demand impact of 20,000 additional police officers and reduce backlogs in the Crown court caused by COVID-19”.

Sunak pledged £315 million to improve the state of prisons in the UK, £105 million for courthouse renovations, and £40 million to support victims of crime. There were, however, no pledges to increase legal aid spending.

Overall, the Ministry’s budget will be £10.1 billion in 2021/22, up from £8.1 billion in 2019/20.

Chair of the Bar Council, Amanda Pinto QC, welcomed the pledged funding. “The announcement of extra funding for the justice system in today’s Spending Review is a ray of hope in terms of fixing the many problems our justice system faces,” she said. “It is a sign that this government understands the importance of investing in the entire justice system from start to finish.”

“But it must not be a flash in the pan,” she added. “To tackle the significant challenges in the courts and wider justice system, including the backlogs in the criminal courts, which are the inevitable consequence of decades of under-investment, the government must now ensure the system is sustainable in the long-term to ensure access to justice for everyone.”

David Greene, president of the Law Society of England, also hailed the news. “Justice in this country was in a dire situation already before the pandemic, and is under pressure now like never before, so the £275 million pledged to reduce persistent Crown court backlogs has come not a moment too soon,” he said.

Also announced in the spending review was an increased minimum wage and a freeze on public sector pay, excluding NHS and the current lowest-paid positions.

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