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.