If you are a poor person or a moderately wealthy person and find yourself charged with a criminal offence and you are innocent, the consequences of proving your innocence (for that is what you have to do in practice despite learned legal theory to the contrary) can be ruinous. In order to get a defence you will have to lay out your savings, sometimes even sell your home, to pay the lawyers to defend you. You cannot into today’s complicated legal world, defend yourself competently, even if you are used to dealing in legal matters without an expensive legal team. The Government refused to lay out taxpayers’s money on these defence costs. The Government has decided that this is just, and such a person that I have described, on being found not guilty by the courts, would be lucky, under a present system, to recover a small fraction of what that person has laid out to in defence costs. Being found not guilty means ruin, not prison.
If you are a politician or senior civil servant and your reputation is at risk in a Public Inquiry the Government has deemed it right and proper that the Government should lay out money to ensure that a politician or civil servant should have whatever resources the Government can must to defend himself or herself. Further, the person at reputational risk in a Public Inquiry can take advantage of a process called “Maxwellisation”. This enables the person to see the Inquiry’s criticisms in draft and have the opportunity to answer them and bring out additional evidence.
There is no parallel to the Maxwellisation process in the criminal law, where a person faces incarceration, ruin and reputational risk in the event of a wrong “guilty” verdict. That person must take his or her chances on the judge’s findings and the jury’s verdict.
So it is clear: there is a possibility of justice for the rich the powerful and the wealthy (like the late Robert Maxwell after whom the Maxwellisation process was named). For the rest of us there is no justice.