Insights from Sir Brian Leveson on the Evolution and Challenges of the Criminal Justice System

We were honoured to welcome Sir Brian Leveson, former Court of Appeal judge and current Investigatory Powers Commissioner for a fireside chat at Modernising Criminal Justice Conference 2024. With a career spanning nearly 50 years, Sir Brian brings unparalleled insight into the criminal justice system's evolution, challenges, and future.

Reflecting on a Transformative Career

Sir Brian reminisces about the transformative changes he has witnessed in the criminal justice system. He notes significant advancements in procedure, disclosure, and the handling of vulnerable individuals. Technological integration and consistency in sentencing have also seen substantial improvements. However, Sir Brian candidly acknowledges the system's ongoing struggles, including crime detection, decreasing court volumes, and challenges faced by police forensics, CPS, and the prison and probation services. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues, highlighting the system's fragility.

Key Challenges for 2024 and Beyond

Sir Brian emphasises that the criminal justice system comprises multiple interdependent subsystems, each facing its own challenges. He stresses the importance of collaboration across all sectors—police, CPS, defence, judiciary, and prison services. Without a unified approach, the system risks further deterioration.

While funding is critical, Sir Brian points out other significant barriers. A siloed approach, where each sector prioritises its interests, hampers overall progress. He advocates for leveraging technology to improve efficiency and access to justice. Innovations like digital jury bundles and enhanced data management could streamline processes without compromising fairness.

Leadership and Unified Action

To drive meaningful change, Sir Brian calls for strong leadership. He suggests the potential benefit of a Minister of Justice to unify the efforts of the Ministry of Justice, Home Office, and Attorney General’s office. This consolidated leadership could enforce collective action and prioritize systemic reforms.

Sir Brian's reflections underscore the urgent need for a collaborative, well-funded, and technologically advanced criminal justice system. Only through unified efforts can we hope to address the current challenges and build a system that serves justice effectively and fairly.