The criminal justice system of England and Wales has long been in decline. According to the solicitors’ professional body – the Law Society – the system is now ‘crumbling’ (Law Society, 2019), and The Secret Barrister (2018) – an anonymous, best-selling legal blogger – has deemed the law to be ‘broken’. In recent times, budget cuts have also been made to the police service, the courts, the CPS and other criminal justice institutions such as prisons. Criminal defence lawyers have seen their fees stagnate or reduce. Defendants have been both compelled to participate in the criminal process and prevented from doing so (Owusu-Bempah, 2017). Some accused have been left to face the criminal process unaided (see Gibbs, 2016). Within the frame of neoliberalism, the criminal process has also become more managerialist and more punitive, adding further to the challenges.
In this chapter we examine the impact of austerity and neoliberalism on the criminal process, also examining some of the policies affecting criminal justice in England and Wales. Neoliberalism, in particular, has resulted in punitive excess and responsibilization, aimed particularly towards the poor and disenfranchised (Garland, 2001; Wacquant, 2009; Bell, 2011). Austerity has forced ‘violence’ upon marginalized groups such as asylum seekers and the street-homeless (Cooper and Whyte, 2017). We contribute further to these debates by examining how the state has failed – or has deliberately decided not – to properly support those within the criminal process, namely those who require – and are thus denied – access to justice.
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