Legal Aid

Coming to a Courtroom near you: Two Tier Justice

PUBLISHED May 11, 2013

In the last few months we have witnessed a number of high profile arrests; politicians, sports commentators, Newspaper editors entertainers and soap stars.

Perhaps the real scandal that is heading our way is the two tier justice system that will exist should the current government proposals be introduced.

Your ability to defend yourself with proper legal representation will boil down to whether you can afford to pay for it.

William Roache, Rebekah Brooks Nigel Evans and numerous others are all being investigated for serious offences; their reputations are at stake and perhaps their liberty. They will all choose their lawyers, experts in the field, who will leave no stone unturned in acting in the best interests of their client. The client faced with such serious charges will want to trust and have confidence in their advisor. Such trust and confidence will enable the client to accept proper advice, positive or negative which will undoubtedly assist the court process in identifying the key issues, managing the process efficiently and effectively, ensuring the fairness of the process for the defendant and protecting and looking after the interests of the complainants and victims.

However, the above examples will become the exception rather than the rule should the government proposals on removal of choice be introduced. If you are arrested for a serious offence, perhaps similar to the ones above, and you cannot afford privately to instruct your lawyer, you will be allocated one. That lawyer will be working for a firm or a company that have obtained a contract to do the work by bidding at the cheapest price. That lawyer, in accordance with the government's expressly stated proposal, will only have to provide a service just above acceptable. You may not even deal with a qualified solicitor; you may deal with a trainee or paralegal. Your legal representative will have every incentive to prepare your case as quickly as possible, to maximise profitability, the difference between what your lawyer will be paid may not vary much whether you plead guilty or not guilty. Your reputation and liberty may well be in the hands of this under qualified legal representative you did not choose. You may be uncomfortable accepting their advice; such a lack of trust may compel you to contest matters you would be better off agreeing or accepting. You may have a defence witness who might be able to help, they are hard to trace, may be unsure about attending court, may need time and attention, your defence may need the lawyer who will go the extra mile to obtain this evidence and properly prepare your defence. You may be nervous about giving evidence; you might have medical conditions which if properly evidenced to a court might affect the credit a jury might give to your account. You may need a lawyer to just go a little further than just above acceptable.

Difficult economic times are not an excuse to abandon a proper and fair justice system. We cannot sell justice to pay off the deficit; if we do, the deficit that will be left will be much bigger. We cannot sanction a law for the rich and a law for the poor.

Sign at here to show your opposition to these terrible proposals.