Retiring Suffolk solicitor highlights underfunding of justice system
- Credit: Archant
The underfunding of the criminal justice system is "a tragedy", a retiring Suffolk defence solicitor has said.
John Hughes, who has spent 26 years as a prominent solicitor, said justice is not being served due to lack of government investment.
He said the "chaotic" nature of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is leading to cases being dropped or trials not being heard.
"I think it's rather sad," he said. "I'm talking about the CPS as an organisation not the individuals. It's chaotic.
"It doesn't have the people to staff it, we regularly have trials where we won't get served the documents until two days before and the court criticises us for not being prepared.
"I think the tragedy, and I do think it's a tragedy across the board, is that everything is run by the Treasury.
"It's all about resources and funding and that's a great shame because - and I mean it from both sides - there are cases which the CPS either drop or are unable to offer evidence because they haven't been able to prepare it properly.
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"So people have genuine cases where my client should be convicted and they don't get the justice they deserve. The flipside of that is that there are clients of ours who are convicted because we haven't had the necessary information we need to be able to prepare their defence properly."
Previously a probation officer and a social worker prior to qualifying as a solicitor, Mr Hughes has seen almost every aspect of the legal profession in his distinguished career.
After initially starting life in Cardiff, he moved to Edinburgh at age 11 before his dad got a job as director of social services in North Wales.
"I always say I've lived everywhere. My dad stayed one step ahead of the bailiffs," he joked.
Working as a probation officer in Ipswich in 1975/76, he was actually based at the very building which would become very familiar to him in later life - the magistrates' court.
A move into social work in northern England lasted until 1989 when an inquiry into the Cleveland child abuse scandal gave him his first taste of law.
"I was cross-examined by 17 QCs in the public inquiry one after the other and I thought, 'You know what, I want to be the one asking the questions'."
He qualified in 1995 and started practising in Redcar, North Yorkshire.
A court martial brought him to Colchester in 2001 and he then persuaded wife Carole and family to make the move back to Suffolk.
After spells with two Ipswich firms - Kerseys Solicitors and Saunders, Goodin, Riddleston - he said colleague Dino Barricella "badgered" him to set up on their own.
Barricella Hughes Solicitors launched in 2005 before Craig Marchant joined the firm as a partner in 2010.
The father-of-four, who has eight grandchildren, retired on Thursday after some goodbye drinks in Ipswich on Wednesday night. He said he intends to spend more time on the golf course.
"I've enjoyed it," he said. "But I won't miss being out in the middle of the night at the police station, getting in at 3am, and then being in court at 9.30am.
"People ask me: 'How can you defend someone you know is guilty?' I say: 'How do I know they're guilty?' Evidentially, it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt and everybody has a right.
"People make allegations. I tell people: 'If the allegation was made against you, wouldn't you want to be represented?'"