Legal Aid Reforms – two important blog posts well worth reading

On Monday, I am recording a podcast with Michael Turner QC on the legal aid reforms / QASA – with particular emphasis on criminal justice.

I have written by email a formal request to the Lord Chancellor, Mr Grayling, to ask if he would prepared to do a podcast on the matter as well.  I await a response.

In the meantime – may I draw your attention to two excellent pieces of writing on the subject – which are thoughtful, incisive and provide food for thought:

By David Allen Green, writing in The New Statesman: How the Ministry of Justice’s proposal for the tendering of criminal legal aid is misconceived and illiberal

The government has a contradictory approach to the legal profession.

On one hand, there appear no limits to its extravagance when the legal work is for particular issues hotly favoured by ministers. For example, the Home Secretary used taxpayers money to fund three QCs on successive hopeless appeals in the Qatada case. And the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, without any apparent public procurement exercise, hired City law firm Slaughter and May to provide advice on a business finance project  Remarkably, it appears the Treasury is even paying Slaughter and May for tax law advice on this particular project, even though there are over 120 tax lawyers already employed by HMRC.

In respect of the legal rights of the citizen, however, the government’s approach is very different. Not only is the government seeking to reduce the amount it spends on ensuring defendants in criminal matters have access to legal advice and representation, it is not even thinking its proposals through.

Take, for example, the Ministry of Justice’s current “consultation” on a scheme of “competitive tendering” for criminal legal aid.  To a large extent, the consultation is a sham, as ministers have already blithely decided that they are in favour of such a scheme in principle and, regardless of the consultation, that “competitive tendering” will be introduced within months. However, the government says that it wishes to consult on the proposed “model” for the scheme, which is just as well as the proposed model is about as misconceived as it could be.

AND… from a practising solicitor – Crimsolicitor – an excellent analysis: The price of everything, the value of nothing…

Let me make one thing very clear from the outset, I and my colleagues increasingly vocal opposition to the proposed reforms to criminal legal aid have nothing to do with the risk it poses to mine and their lifestyle, the loss of our jobs and incomes. We all appreciate that we do not hold any high position in society that means we are entitled to a job for life.

Our opposition is to the very real loss of access to justice, choice and fearless representation that will inevitably follow if these proposals are allowed to go ahead. The loss of protections afforded to the people that need it the most and because we see these proposals as a further step down the road to the end of a justice system that is rightly regarded as one of the best in the world. My concern is that these proposals will simply be nodded through without any real consideration of the long term effects and once in place will become almost irreversible.

Of greater concern is the lack of general awareness to the whole issue by the general public as to how it may affect them and the fact that they are being fed an argument that I initially thought was ill-conceived but now believe is intentionally misleading….

Please read the entire article

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STOP PRESS

See also Professor Richard Moorhead’s detailed post – drawing attention to Roger Smith’s article on the subject: Legal Aid Cuts: Some Thoughts

 

Ironic that Home Secretary, Theresa May, signs ‘fair trials’ treaty with Jordan to deal with Abu Qatada – yet UK Govt cutting back on legal aid so many in need will be unrepresented – is that ‘fair’

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