The Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips sent a stark warning to the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer last week, saying that unless court funding improved the Secretary of State must be held to account for breach of his statutory duty.
At the Judicial Studies Board annual lecture last week (22 March), Phillips said he had received reports from across the country that Falconer’s court budget caused “financial stringency that is damaging the administration of justice”.
He went on to say that currently the effects are not to the extent that it can be clearly demonstrated that the Lord Chancellor is in breach of his statutory duty, but that they were “damaging nonetheless”.
“It’s possible to envisage a point being reached at which, as a last resort, I might be constrained to protest to Parliament that the Lord Chancellor was not succeeding in performing his statutory duty to ensure that the courts are properly resourced,” said Phillips.
The lack of financial incentive to entice members of the legal profession to be made up to the judiciary also concerned the Lord Chief Justice.
He said: “I fear that life on the bench may appear less attractive than it used to, particularly compared with rewards at the bar, which, at least in some sectors, are greater than they ever have been.
“The administrative duties that so many of us now undertake may appear as unwelcome burdens notwithstanding that they can add to the variety and satisfaction of the job.”