Legal aid in the news round-up

The Independent 

Legal Aid: Well, they are called the wheels of justice…

Writing in The Independent, Mark Steel delivers a scathing satirical attack on the proposed legal aid changes. Talking about G4S, the security firm that also has the contract to transfer prisoners from the courtroom to prison, he writes:

“So the G4S lawyer can tell their client: “The guilty verdict may be slightly disappointing, but the good news is you’re being taken to the slammer by my colleague Dave who’s a right laugh, so it’s worked out quite well, all in all.”

Maybe G4S can offer a discount if the same person does both jobs, saying: “I’ve brought the witness statements, and I’ve got the handcuffs in case I arse it up, so, either way, I’m prepared.””

Steel also highlights one of the most compelling examples of why the ‘residence test’ that the government proposes to introduce for all non criminal cases, unfairly discriminates against certain people:

“Then there’s the rule that no one will be entitled to legal aid unless they can prove that they’ve been legally resident in the UK for 12 months. So women who’ve been illegally trafficked here will be disqualified. That will teach them to sponge off the state.”

The article concludes with a comment on what the government hopes to achieve with these changes:

“The whole scheme is to reduce a legal-aid bill that’s stayed the same for 10 years, and curb “fat-cat lawyers”, because the average wage of a legal-aid lawyer in 2009 was £25,000. At last the Government is pursuing the people swiping the nation’s wealth[…]”

Article in The Independent:

The Guardian

Ministry of Justice plans to cut court services trigger strikes

Owen Bowcott sums up the state of play after the closing of the government’s consultation last week. The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) have called a further strike on Monday  in which lawyers will join court staff for the first time to oppose the Ministry of Justice’s proposals to contract out services and cut legal aid.

He also draws attention to the consultation response prepared by the government’s own watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which warned that the plans “may have an adverse impact on the right to a fair trial” and “exclude vulnerable people from access to justice”.

Justice Select Committee hearing – 3 July

Lastly Bowcott picks up on the news that Chris Grayling will appear before the Commons’ justice select committee on 3 July to answer questions about his legal aid consultation. The evidence session is open to the general public. We have been told that it is likely to be busy and people are advised to get there early to avoid disappointment.

There is also an article in The Times – Grayling’s legal aid cuts will wreck justice, England’s top judges say

And yesterday’s article in the Evening Standard – Richard Godwin: Beware of Eddie Stobart-style cut-price justice

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