Dominic Raab has only made one criminal court visit during his two stints as Justice Secretary

 “Prioritising prisons over courts”: Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (PA Wire)
“Prioritising prisons over courts”: Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (PA Wire)

Dominic Raab has come under fire after it emerged he has only been in one criminal court during his two stints as justice secretary.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who served in the post under Boris Johnson, was axed by Liz Truss and then reinstated by Rishi Sunak, has visited at least 11 prisons since he first took charge of the Ministry of Justice in September last year.

But diaries said Mr Raab had barely found any time to visit the criminal courts in England and Wales.

This includes a period of intense crisis in the justice system, with barristers on strike, crown court backlogs reaching 63,000 cases, solicitors considering industrial action over pay, and a renewed focus on crumbling court buildings.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said Mr Raab had seen a virtual court in Sheffield in February of this year - his only trip to see the criminal justice system in action.

“It’s really disappointing to learn of this misguided approach,” said Hesham Puri, from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. “It shows skewed priorities. To visit prisons and pretend the courts aren’t at the heart of the justice emergency suggests fantasy thinking.”

Dominic Raab with a prison officer at the opening of category C prison HMP Five Wells (PA Wire)
Dominic Raab with a prison officer at the opening of category C prison HMP Five Wells (PA Wire)

Kirsty Brimelow KC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “It is important for the Secretary of State for Justice to enter crown court buildings to see the challenges that the barristers and staff face.”

Details of his diary were revealed thanks to a Freedom of Information request by the Standard, which took the ministry three months to answer.

When asked, the department did not say why the secretary of state had prioritised prisons over courts, or if he had a court visit planned for the future. But it highlighted that junior ministers have attended criminal courts.

“Ministers have visited courts more than a dozen times since September 2021, and will continue to do so to ensure that they have an accurate picture of the justice system”, a spokesman said.

Mr Raab was accused of failing in his duties during the stand-off with criminal barristers over legal aid, after refusing to meet with the Criminal Bar Association for talks to end the strike.

Brandon Lewis MP, who was Justice Secretary for just seven weeks during Liz Truss’ premiership, ended the strike by brokering a deal with barristers. He also visited Inner London crown court to inspect areas in need of repair.

Mr Raab is facing an investigation into his behaviour after two formal complaints were made against him. He said he had “never tolerated bullying”.

An earlier version of this story stated Dominic Raab had not visited a single criminal court however, after publication, the Ministry of Justice said Mr Raab’s visit to the virtual court in Sheffield had been in person.