It beggars belief that any elected British government could put forward proposals so damaging to justice for the citizen as those in the Ministry of Justice consultation.
The Guardian - Sunday 9th June 2013 - Editorial:
The consultation paper by Lord McNally, Liberal Democrat leader in House of Lords and minister of state for justice, says: "Respondents are advised to have the overall fiscal context firmly in mind." That didn't stop the Bar Council, the Law Society, magistrates, thousands of high-street solicitors and hundreds of senior judges from attacking the proposals as the end to fair and equal justice. Even the government's own legal advisers, the 145 barristers who make up the attorney general's panel of counsel, claimed the plan would penalise the most vulnerable .
It is easy to characterise legal aid lawyers as feathering their nests by representing clients who are invariably guilty. But the truth is very different. Legal aid lawyers have suffered cuts over the last 15 years and frequently end up working long, unrewarded hours in a system that is already under severe strain. Often, it is the solicitor from one of the 1,000 firms that will disappear under these proposals who keeps the show on the road.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling and Lord McNally say PCT is the only way they can contribute to the £11.5bn budget cuts by 2015. Clearly, they have to make savings, yet it is likely that a system that awards contracts to firms that make the lowest bids will drive standards down. Under the suggested system, lawyers will be paid the same for a guilty plea as a not guilty plea. As the preparation for a trial will be unpaid the pressure for clients to plead guilty will be overwhelming.
That is unacceptable. The government needs to think again."
The Mail Online Sunday 9th June - The new face of British justice - "A haulage firm boss described as ‘slapdash’ and ‘incompetent’ by a High Court judge intends to become the new face of legal criminal defence work in the UK.
Under sweeping reforms driven by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, government legal aid contracts worth millions of pounds are to be taken away from high street solicitors’ firms, and many handed to large companies instead."
Note also the views of former Lord Chancellor Lord MacKay of Clashfern. His views are at the bottom of the Daily Mail article where he warns that the proposed legal aid cuts may cause serious damage to the justice system and increase wrongful convictions. Mackay offers Mr Grayling a lifeline, saying that instead of railroading his plans through without parliamentary debate, he should ‘sit down’ with lawyers’ leaders to work out other means of saving the £220 million the Treasury wants to cut from his budget. One way, he said, would be to charge convicted defendants court costs, which could raise £120 million a year.