Rishi Sunak has re-appointed Dominic Raab in his former posts of justice secretary and deputy prime minister.
Mr Raab was sacked by Liz Truss, who also shelved his Bill of Rights after he vocally backed Mr Sunak in his first Conservative leadership bid.
Parts of the divisive law, which would abolish and replace the Human Rights Act, were being taken forward by the Truss government but it could now be reconsidered in full.
There was previously little support for the bill, which some saw as a “vanity project” that would change little and others warned would be “a lurch backwards for British justice”.
Mr Raab generated further controversy during his initial one-year tenure as justice secretary after refusing to negotiate with barristers’ amid an escalating strike that disrupted at least 15,000 crown court hearings between April and September.
After just weeks in office, his successor Brandon Lewis met with the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and negotiated a deal on legal aid payments that ended the action.
Mr Lewis announced his resignation following Mr Sunak’s formal appointment as prime minister on Tuesday, with a letter calling prison, probation and court staff “hidden heroes”.
“We have taken a big step forward in confronting the courts backlog and ensuring that victims get access to the justice they deserve,” he added.
“The critical importance of the whole justice system to our country cannot be overstated. It underpins all we do, all we achieve and all we believe in.”
The post of justice secretary has been one of the most disrupted in recent times, changing hands nine times in just over seven years.
Mr Raab was first made justice secretary by Boris Johnson in September 2021, having been removed from the foreign secretary post after being on holiday in Crete as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
Kirsty Brimelow KC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said that barristers would work with him “to build on the constructive relationship commenced” by Mr Lewis.
“The crisis in the criminal justice system is devastating for victims, witnesses and defendants,” she warned.
Dominic Raab attacks ‘nonsense’ of Human Rights Act
“Without longer term investment, barristers will continue to leave practice in criminal law, the government will continue to fail to deliver justice for victims of crime and case backlogs will heave the entire criminal justice system over the cliff.”
The proportion of crimes being prosecuted has hit a record low and record court backlogs mean that many victims are waiting years for justice, if they receive it at all.
The former Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird, warned last month that the criminal justice system has been “devastated by years of cuts and chronic underfunding, with victims ultimately paying the price”.
She added: “At times the system barely functions. Where it does, it seems to rely on goodwill alone. This goodwill is rapidly being exhausted, as is victim patience. We urgently need genuine and sustainable investment.”
The watchdog, who resigned last month with a damning open letter, called Mr Raab’s previous refusal to meet with the CBA a “reckless failure” and called for the Bill of Rights to be abandoned.
Dame Vera said the law would “erode rather than strengthen victims’ rights”, and that the government needed to concentrate on delivering justice for rape victims.
The Law Society of England and Wales, which represents solicitors, called for “investment across the entire system”.
President Lubna Shuja said: “It is essential that Sunak’s government, as an absolute minimum, maintains justice spending and addresses the funding gap which is crushing the system.
“We also urge the UK government to uphold the rule of law. A fresh review of the proposed Bill of Rights is required.
“The Bill represents a lurch backwards for British justice and would disempower the British public by the weakening of individual rights and divergence from our international human rights obligations.”
Mr Sunak has not made any public commitment to the bill in his second leadership run, pledging in his first speech as prime minister that he would deliver the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto.
It pledged to “update the Human Rights Act” but did not propose abolishing it or creating a Bill of Rights, which was originally proposed in David Cameron’s 2015 election manifesto.
Among the justice proposals in the 2019 document was a royal commission to look at “serious change” needed to the criminal justice system.
Work on the policy, which was confirmed in the following Queen’s Speech, was indefinitely “paused” during the Covid pandemic and has not been restarted.
It is unclear whether there is time before the next election for the commission to go ahead, with no commissioners selected and no terms of reference drawn up to define its scope.