On Friday BBC London reported that the men who were found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence ‘received’ £ 425,000 in legal aid. This information was obtained through a Freedom of Information request carried out by the Daily Mail. The article does not say precisely what ‘the point’ it is trying to make is – but presumably it is that the legal aid costs of some cases can be very high. But is this such a bad thing? People who have been accused of committing a crime are innocent until they are proven guilty. In some complex cases the cost of preparing a defence may be high. In some cases they may be found guilty in the end. But is it better to know that their convictions are safe, having spend that money on their defence, or to risk a incorrect conviction?
The BBC do not set out the government’s proposals to change legal aid in any detail, and only briefly mention that they have sparked “some” concerns. This seems rather an understatement when the President of the Supreme Court, a retired Court of Appeal Judge, Crown Court judges, leading barristers, including some advising the government, the government’s own human rights watchdog, as well as countless charities including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Liberty have all expressed very serious concerns about the proposals, including the risk that they will lead to miscarriages of justice.