Sunday 16 June 2013

Legal Aid: that was the week that was.

Save JusticeThe government is changing legal aid!  It will affect you!   This explains why.

The campaign against the government's proposals for Reforming legal aid continues so please consider signing the e-petition on Legal Aid.  This seeks to persuade the House of Commons that a debate is necessary about proposals which will put numerous firms of high street solicitors out of business, effectively remove your right to choose your solicitor, hand public money to a chosen few private suppliers of legal aid work, and devastate the independent criminal bar.  Even if you get legal aid and are acquitted, you may still have to pay a considerable contribution to your own defence.  This could lead to many DIY defendants: people who feel forced to defend themselves rather than expose their savings and home to a legal aid contribution.  Surely, the Secretary of State should not be simply allowed to sign this into law.  Parliament must do its job and hold him to account.

The consequences for those charged
are likely to be devastating and you never know when it might be you (e.g. a moment's lack of concentration when driving which has serious consequences) or a member of your family such as a young person out with friends who gets caught up in some event. Please note carefully: the government will always ensure that it is represented by the best lawyers.  No cuts are proposed to the prosecution side.

Excellent articles have appeared - The government's purge of legal aid crosses the border into authoritarianism and tyranny - Conservative Student 20th May - and  Natural justice faces a savage loss of innocence - Nick Cohen - 15th June 2013.  Please read them and call upon your MP to oppose the Grayling plans.  

The media has been riddled with seriously misleading articles about the earnings of legal aid lawyers.  An attempt to rectify this is at Mail on Sunday corrects daily's legal aid sums.   It is little use denying the fact that some lawyers obtain high fees from legal aid - a matter I covered in my post the other day - Yuppy, beady-eyed crowds; Fat Cats and Moggies!  Wednesday thoughts.   There are complex and lengthy cases where the most expert of lawyers are needed but, even in such Very High Cost Cases (VHCCs), the Bar Council has proposed an alternative funding scheme (Graduated Fee Scheme - or GFS) which would save the government money.  The fact remains that, for most lawyers practising in criminal legal aid, income is very low to moderate.  This was made very clear by one lawyer who simply cannot afford to continue - This is what is happening to honest hard working legal aid lawyers, and why.

During a radio programme, Lord McNally (Minister of State for Justice) was interviewed by Joshua Rozenberg.  McNally sought to defend the government's position but, in doing so, acted in a particularly petulant manner.  He came across as irritated that anyone should have the temerity to question the Ministry's proposals.  Of course, he has his position in the Lords for life and need never face the electorate to answer for anything.  A MUST read is the evisceration of Lord McNally by Guy Gozem QC - Lord McNally's balloons.

On 11th June, at the Justice Committee hearing  leading representatives of the legal profession explained the professional opposition to the Grayling proposals - especially those for Price Competitive Tendering (PCT).  It was made clear that the professions are willing to engage with government about saving money but they will not go along with a Blitzkrieg on access to justice and fair trial rights for the population.

Please stand up and be counted: sign the e-petition on Legal Aid.

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