Thursday, 5 September 2013

Legal Aid ~ Westminster Hall debate ~ Inefficiency and waste

Chris Grayling MP
Transforming legal aid:

Price Competitive Tendering (or PCT) was a central plank in the government's Transforming Legal Aid proposals.  I say 'was' because it looks as though it has been dropped by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr Chris Grayling) - BBC News 5th September.  A revised consultation is to be issued and it will need careful reading and analysis.  One feature of the revised proposal appears to be a phased cut in criminal legal aid fees.  'Very High Cost Criminal Cases' apart, legal aid fees are not especially generous at the moment and a severe cut - said to total 17.5% - may drive many practitioners away from legally aided criminal work.  For more on this - see:

Twitter which shows an interview given by Grayling to The Times - Grayling does deal on legal aid cuts and Second page of the Law Section interview

Westminster Hall debate:

On 4th September, Parliament held a Westminster Hall debate on Criminal legal aid reforms and price competitive tendering. 

The debate may now be read via the Parliament website HERE and it may be watched HERE

Inefficiency and waste:

Another news item is in The Independent 5th September - Court failings scupper 500 cases a week which states:

More than 500 court cases are being thrown out or delayed each week due to failings by prosecutors or in the court system, it has been claimed.  Government figures have shown that in total 106,859 cases before crown and magistrates’ courts were dropped or delayed in 2012, costing an estimated £17.4m.   Tony Arbour, Conservative London Assembly Member, said that 30,155 cases were delayed or thrown out because of court or prosecution failings, around 580 per week.

“In general, the court system is chaotic and even the basics are not in place which often means cases cannot go ahead.

“Trials fall apart because witnesses are not told when to turn up, the Crown Prosecution Service fails to receive police evidence, or barristers fail to call witnesses who are waiting in court into the witness box.

“Witnesses and victims can often be vulnerable, chaotic and disorganised. Often, they don’t want to attend court and just want to get on with their lives. Yet the court system does more to discourage these people from coming forward rather than encouraging them.”

Here is a matter which ought to receive the urgent attention of the Ministry of Justice; Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. So far as Magistrates' Courts are concerned, the one 'constant' is that the Justices (JPs) are there daily, on time, ready and willing to serve.  If only the rest of 'the system' were as reliable.

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