The most senior criminal judge in England and Wales has called for greater Government funding to support the “struggling” criminal justice system.
Sir Brian Leveson, who will retire from the role on his 70th birthday on Saturday, expressed concern that “crime is not being detected”, and that the volume of cases going through the courts is decreasing.
Giving a valedictory speech in a packed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Friday, Sir Brian said he hoped the “forthcoming Spending Review will look at the criminal justice system holistically and address some of these problems”.
Sir Brian – who is best-known for chairing a public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press – said the criminal justice system is, in many ways, “in a better place than it was when I started my career nearly 50 years ago”.
However, he added: “But in other ways it is not. The truth is that many facets of the system are struggling.
“Crime is not being detected, volumes through the courts are decreasing. The police, forensics, the CPS, the fabric of the court, the Prison and Probation Service, all are struggling.
“Remuneration for legal services in crime and for advice and representation in other areas of public law creates real challenges which I have no doubt need to be addressed.
“All I can add is that there is some hope that the recent discussions between the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice, the Bar and the Law Society will be positive and, in addition, that the forthcoming Spending Review will look at the criminal justice system holistically and address some of these problems.”
The valedictory ceremony was attended by leading members of the judiciary, including Supreme Court president Lady Hale, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, and dozens of senior judges.
Sir Brian’s family were also in attendance, as well as lawyers and court staff.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC and Justice Secretary David Gauke also attended the event.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, earlier thanked Sir Brian for his service, and said his retirement was “to the deep regret of all who know him and have worked with him”.
Lord Burnett added that the Leveson Inquiry was “one of the most outstanding examples of judicial public service of our age”.
Sir Brian will be succeeded by Dame Victoria Sharp, who will be the first woman President of the Queen’s Bench Division.