Mail on Sunday Joins the Chorus of Criticism of Legal Aid Proposals

The Mail on Sunday runs a two page article on the ‘New Face of British Justice’.

What The Mail says

The article focuses on concerns that the quality of criminal defence will ‘plummet’ as a result of government proposals to award contracts to the lowest bidder through price competitive tendering (‘PCT’). The Stobart Group is one of the companies that first expressed interest in bidding for the proposed contracts. The Mail investigates The Stobart Group’s existing company, Stobart Barristers, and its leading figure Mr Trevor Howarth. The Mail says Mr Howarth has ‘no legal qualifications’ and has been described by High Court judge Mr Justice Eady as ‘slapdash’ and ‘incompetent’.

Stobart Barristers

Stobart Barristers’ website claims:

“Instead of always having to go through a solicitor to get legal advice or representation, you can now deal with a barrister direct. A medical analogy might help to explain: a solicitor can be likened to a GP – a professional generalist who is used to dealing with a variety of problems and passing some of them onto more specialised experts. A barrister is like a consultant – a specialist in one area of the law, with in-depth expertise and experience.”

This shows a clear misunderstanding of the amount of preparation and specialist experience and knowledge often required from a solicitor before a case reaches the court room. We are particularly concerned by a quote from a Stobart Barristers’ customer on their website:

“I contacted Stobart Barristers the day before the hearing although I thought it would be too late….This proves you do not require months and weeks of letters and preparation cost. You just require the right barrister.”

Risk of Miscarriage of Justice

The Mail quotes Lord Mackay of Clashfern, former Lord Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and highlights his concerns that reduction in quality of legal representation will create a greater risk of miscarriage of justice. He considers the removal of clients’ right to choose their own defence lawyer to be ‘very dangerous’ and invites Mr Grayling to ‘sit down’ with lawyers’ leaders to work out other means of reducing the legal aid budget.

Let’s hope Mr Grayling is listening!

Read the full article here: New face of British justice: Eddie Stobart lorry boss who judge called incompetent (dailymail.co.uk)

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