CEPEJ Data: Common Law Countries, Average but not with Legal Aid?

I have had a chance to have a bit of a closer look at the CEPEJ report.  It compares public spending on various parts of the justice system in a great deal of detail.  Inevitably in seeking to make comparisons, however, it loses some of the detail and suggests things are comparable which may not be.  However, given the interest in the area, I have quickly pulled together some of the key comparative data on England and Wales relative to the other countries.  The full report is eye wateringly long, but I recommend that anyone interested takes a closer look before hypothesising too strongly.

The broad kinds of spending covered is shown in this diagram from the report.

 CEPEJ

The position of England and Wales in the ranking of European countries (which it should be emphasised contains a very wide grouping of countries from the wealthy to the poor, and with widely varying legal systems) appears to be (on my calculations) as follows.  In broad terms, England and Wales tends to rank about average or significantly lower in comparative spend terms on most indicators other than legal aid, where common law systems generally, and sometimes also relatively rich countries, tend to spend significantly more.  Here are the headlines.  All figures are for 2012, so the LASPO cuts would yet impact on these numbers (although other cuts were having an impact as we will see).  Out of over 40 countries, England and Wales was:

  • 27th highest in the proportion of the annual public expenditures allocated to the whole justice system at 1.8%,below an average of 2.2%
  • 22nd highest in the proportion of the whole justice system budget allocated to the judicial system (courts, public prosecution services and legal aid) at 51.6%, just above average (49.2%)
  • 11th highest in annual public budget allocated to all courts (excluding legal aid and public prosecution) per inhabitant at 42.2Eur, just above an average of 34.8Eur
  • 27th highest in annual public budget allocated to all courts (excluding legal aid and public prosecution) as a proportion of GDP per capita at 15%:  below the average of 0.21%.  The report notes: “It must be stressed that States that benefit from large scale assistance to strengthen the rule of law, in particular from the European Union or other international organisations, automatically allocate relatively high proportions of their budget to their court system. This is the case in particular for Bosnia and Herzegovina, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Croatia, Poland, Hungary or Bulgaria. Consequently, Western European states or entities, which have higher national levels of wealth such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark or UK-England and Wales, seem to spend smaller amount (GDP per capita) to finance courts. This distorting effect must be taken into consideration when making possible comparisons, in order not to draw the erroneous conclusion that a wealthy state or entity would not allocate a significant budget to the functioning of its courts.”
  • 10th highest in annual public budget per inhabitant allocated to the public prosecution service in 2012 at 8Eur, just above average at 11.4Eur
  • 30th in annual public budget allocated to the public prosecution service per inhabitant as part (in %) of the GDP per capita at 042% – well below average (here there had been a significant reduction in E&W between 2010 and 2012 which was masked somewhat by exchange rates).

On legal aid the report notes this:

 A little bit less than 9 € per inhabitant is spent on average by the public authorities to promote access to justice through the legal aid system. However, it seems more relevant to consider the median value in Europe: 2,25 € per inhabitant. The Northern European states commit the largest budgets to the legal aid systems. As it was the case in previous evaluation years, Northern European states have a strong tradition of generous legal aid systems: more than 50€ per inhabitant are spent in the legal aid system in Norway and UK-Northern Ireland and between 20 € and 50 € in UK-England and Wales, UK-Scotland, Netherlands and Sweden. A relatively high amount of the budget (more than 10 € per inhabitant) can also be noted in Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland and Iceland.

The figures indicate England and Wales were:

  • 3rd in annual public budget allocated to legal aid in 2012, in €per inhabitant at 59Eur.63 well above an average of 8Eur (only Norway and UK-NI spend more)
  • 2nd in annual public budget allocated to legal aid per inhabitant as part (in %) of the GDP per capita, in 2012 at 14% only NI spent more per capita. The average was 0.02%
  • 8% cuts had bitten by 2012 (this figure is softened by exchange rates so the position is worse), one of only 8 states reducing their spend during that period.
  • Norway, and the three UK jurisdictions spend the largest proportion of their justice budget on legal aid (40%+). Iceland, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands spend more than 20% most of the others spend less than 10%

In further analysis England and Wales were:

  •  16th in total annual budget allocated to all courts and public prosecution (without legal aid) per inhabitant in 2012 at 9Eur, just above average (53.2Eur)
  • 35th in annual public budget allocated to all courts and public prosecution services (without legal aid) per inhabitant as part (in %) of the GDP per capita, in 2012 at 18% significantly below average (0.28%)
  • 7th in total annual budget allocated to all courts and legal aid (without public prosecution) per inhabitant in 2012 at 83.7Eur significantly above the average 43.3Eur
  • 14th in annual public budget allocated to all courts and legal aid (excluding prosecution services) per inhabitant as part (in %) of the GDP per capita at 28% (just above an average of 0.27%)
  • 9th on total annual budget allocated to the judicial system (courts, legal aid and public prosecution) per inhabitant in 2012 at 5Eur well above an average of 60.6Eur
  • 16th on annual public budget allocated to the judicial system (courts, legal aid and prosecution services) per inhabitant as part (in %) of the GDP per capita, in 2012  at 32% just below an average of 0.33%

One final nugget, interesting in the light of Mitchell and the increases litigants in person in particular.  On Judicial trainingThe report states that:

Less than 1% of court budgets is spent on judicial training in Europe in 2012, which has not improved over the past periods studied by the CEPEJ. Judicial training can be considered as a spending priority (more than 2% of the court budgets) in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. This budgetary effort is very limited (less than 0.1% of the court budget) in Bulgaria, Italy, UK-England and Wales.

 

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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