The Bar Council has urged the Government to regenerate towns and cities by investing in the local court system and providing access to early legal advice for the most vulnerable, as it highlights regions where law and order is particularly weak.
It says there is a substantial backlog of cases at Carlisle Crown Court, with 254 cases waiting to be heard at the end of June, a rise of 18 per cent since March 2020. Carlisle also has just one publicly funded legal advice provider for housing and none for welfare support.
It adds that Cumbria has the highest percentage increase in total recorded crime (excluding fraud) across the North West, when comparing the year ending March 2019 with year ending March 2020.
In a paper submitted to the Treasury ahead of the spending review, the Bar Council wrote: “Levelling up is a key Government commitment to help communities, particularly in the Midlands and the North, and to reduce regional inequalities.
“There is an opportunity as part of this strategy to regenerate towns and cities by modernising and investing in courts and tribunals, which are often in the centre of these towns and cities such as Blackpool, Carlisle, Preston, Cardiff and York.”
The Bar Council says this would not only help deal with crime in the region, but also attract investment, provide a confidence boost to the local economy and help people in need access justice locally.
As part of the levelling up agenda, the Bar Council also urges the Government to make non-means tested legal aid available for all domestic abuse cases and introduce early access to legal advice for social welfare issues.
The chairwoman of the Bar Council, Amanda Pinto, said: “Levelling up should focus on people, as well as the areas they call home.
“The Government has a chance right now to help support the most vulnerable in society and balance the scales.
“Many people in the North and Midlands are in dire need of early legal advice to help them resolve issues such as housing, debt or unemployment. In the long run, this early advice saves the Government money and resources across several ministries.
“The sooner we can stop cases snowballing, causing further delays to the court system and cost and misery to the people involved, the better.
“Very often, legal need is simply not being met. The public expects and deserves that those who have committed crimes against them will be brought to justice quickly and effectively.
“That is impossible with insufficient court space to deal with the exploding backlog of cases.
“But the Government can change that by reopening courts that have been closed, refurbishing existing courts to help reduce the backlog and giving communities the ability to have justice done locally and efficiently.”