Legal aid plans: Defendants ‘will lose right to choose’

Figures show that taxpayers give about £2bn every year on legal aid as more than half of it is spend on criminal defence. Recently ministers announced that due to their latest plans the annual criminal legal aid budget in England and Wales would be cut with £220m.

The defendants will no longer have the right to choose a solicitor and this would reflect to those people who needed lawyers with specialist expertise. It is not the same with people, who need document drafting.

Ministers stated that the right to a fair trial would not be affected and called for bigger organisations to stop providing legal aid.

When the changes do happen providers of legal aid would have to bid for contracts; defendants whose income is larger than £37,500 would not have automatic access to legal aid; prisoners will have difficulties when trying to complain against the prison system.

Sir Anthony, who retired as a Court of Appeal judge last year, said the plans had serious lapses mentioning that for the future a defendant would be “allocated a firm of solicitors, a lawyer or a corporate provider like Eddie Stobart, or whoever it may be”, not being able to choose such a lawyer who would be well-aware of their cases and needs.

The Ministry of Justice received a response of 150 pages from the Bar Council.

Maura McGowan QC, chairperson of the Bar Council, expressed her opinion claiming that nowadays the whole world admired the current justice system and for the future money would mean everything.

“PCT may look as though it achieves short-term savings, but it is a blunt instrument that will leave deep scars on our justice system for far longer.”

The Association of Prison Lawyers added that many important matters such as the separation of mothers and babies for example, would not receive any funding.

Soon the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act removed legal aid from many areas of civil law were removed.

 

Cuts on the Legal Aid Budget

According to the words of the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as legal aid covers the costs of accused criminals they should not be offered to use top-rate lawyers.

He talked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with the idea of stating that these people should not use expensive QC’s when less experienced and much cheaper lawyers are able to do the same job.

He proposed than junior lawyers should defend such criminals explaining that this would cut some of the costs from the legal aid budget.

“The question is, can we really afford so often to use people who are paid such an additional higher rate compared with somebody’s who’s nearly as experienced, who’s a seriously competent barrister, who will become a QC one day if they choose to do so? The reason I’m starting this discussion, and I’ll be talking to the Bar Council and others, is that in some cases we’re now spending £500,000 or more on legal fees.”

Critics, on the other hand, showed their concerns that such cuts will mean worse outcomes for the people who cannot afford legal representation and these will have no access to justice at all.

The current budget for legal aid suffered changes and has already been slashed but most probably some new reductions are on their way.

Martha McGowan, the Chairman of the Bar Council, said Grayling’s decision was wrong and it could be compared to a trainee doctor carrying out a complicated surgery.

The legal aid has been a controversial issues for decades, however what we are certain about is the need of high quality legal documents for every business.

 

Tougher Measures for Legal Aid Pay-backs

People on lower income who are accused of crimes are eligible for legal aid from the government to cover their costs for a solicitor. however, if they are found guilty, they are required to pay back the costs for the legal aid or part of them, depending on their financial situation. This aid has been assigned in order to ensure everyone has access to proper legal service, when accused of crime. However, it turned out that only one fifth of the costs have been paid back  by the criminals last year- just £1.8m out of £10 m.

That`s why the government is now working on tougher measures for debtors, refusing to pay back their legal aid costs, when found guilty. Hopefully the planned measures will have an effect and more criminals will pay back their legal aid debt. According to the plans the new measure will feature:

  • If criminals  refuse to provide the required financial information, for an assessment of how much they should pay pack, they will be assigned to pay the full amount of the legal aid received. This way, criminals will not be able to avoid actions against them, by simply not responding.
  • If someone is trying to deceive the system by claiming less earnings or assets, in order to pay lower amount, they will be entitled to pay an extra sum, in addition to their estimated pay back amount.
  • The government will be given more power to deal with the assets of the criminals, who refuse to pay back their legal aid costs.

Chris Grayling, justice Minister said:  ”These proposals set out robust measures that will see more costs recuperated from criminals.”It is not right that law-abiding citizens foot the bill when those concerned can pay.”

At the moment the MoJ is undertaking a consultation on the potential of the proposed measures, which is expected to end on the 11th of December.

At The Legal Stop, we are not eligible to fund any legal aid costs, however, we can provide a great legal service, offering you the highest quality legal documents at the lowest possible prices.