Legal Aid

Blur star drums up opposition to criminal legal aid cuts

PUBLISHED May 17, 2013

Dave Rowntree spent the 90?s as drummer for Blur, one of Britain?s most famous bands. Now he?s a solicitor, specialising in criminal defence and is the frontman for a campaign to stop government plans to slash criminal legal aid.

?I?m appalled and outraged. As far as I can see these plans spell disaster. When you skimp on defence you send the wrong people to prison?. The musician-turned lawyer is spearheading a demonstration on Wednesday 22 May to protest at the changes. Rowntree believes the plans will create a two-tier justice system: one for the rich and one for the poor, ?Justice for one should be justice for all, regardless of means.?

The demonstration 10.30 ? 12.30 on May 22nd Old Palace Yard, SW1P 3JY, opposite the House of Parliament, organised by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, is expected to draw several hundred protesting solicitors and barristers from all over England and Wales, an unprecedented unity in the legal profession. Other speakers include Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four (wrongly imprisoned for 15 years); distinguished lawyer and civil rights campaigner Helena Kennedy QC; Clive Stafford-Smith OBE, founder of human rights charity Reprieve; Courtenay Griffiths QC, eminent defence barrister (PC Blakelock and Damilola Taylor murder trials) and Shauneen Lambe, Director of Just for Kids Law (charity which won a Judicial Review, changing how 17 year olds are treated in police custody).

Notes to editors:
  1. For interviews with Dave Rowntree contact Philippa Budgen: 07801 150 192. For interviews with Gerry Conlon contact: Sarah Flanagan: 07527 099 091. For interviews with LCCSA spokesperson Paul Harris: 07841 454165. Other enquiries: Paul Harris LCCSA: 07841 454165 or Philippa Budgen: 07801 150 192
  2. DEMO: 10.30 ? 12 30, Wednesday May 22. Old Palace Yard, London, SW1P 3JY
  3. BACKGROUND TO LEGAL AID CUTS: Justice Minister Chris Grayling says he wants to save £220 million per year from the criminal legal aid bill but organisers of the protest, LCCSA say this will:
    1. Remove the right to choose the person who defends you. The state will prosecute you and choose who represents you.
    2. The Government proposal acknowledges that defence lawyers are NOT to provide, quote:?a legal aid service of a level of quality above the acceptable level?. Appalling if your reputation and liberty are at stake.
    3. The new fee structure will mean advocates will be paid the same for a guilty plea as a trial lasting up to 3 days. This introduces perverse incentives and a danger of miscarriage of justice.
    4. Bring about a two-tier system- one for the rich, one for the poor.
    5. Sacrifice quality of service and introduce untested providers eg Stobart (of haulage fame)
    6. All of the above will lead to an inevitable reduction in quality the likelihood of which are miscarriages of justice and people wrongly imprisoned.
    7. Akhtar Ahmad President of the LCCSA described these proposals as "...a dangerous and unnecessary experiment which will cause irreparable damage to our Criminal Justice system."
  • June 4th: closing date for responses to criminal legal aid consultation paper
  • END AUGUST/BEGINNING SEPT 2013: Government written response to consultation paper responses
  • October 2013: Government opens tender process
  • Summer 2014: Successful bidders announced
  • October 2014: introduction of new tenders for selected firms