Legal Aid


PUBLISHED April 13, 2013

The recent series of prisoners' wives is to be commended for portraying a story line about a man alleged to have sexually abused a child without playing up to the normal stereotypes. The married father of three boys was accused of abusing the next door neighbour's son after a football coaching session. His arrest , remand into custody and treatment in prison tore the family apart,especially after his wife's infidelity was revealed to him by his solicitor during a legal visit.

Of course these offences are those that give rise to greatest public despising of defendants in the criminal justice system. These are normally the defendants portrayed with thick rimmed glasses and whispy beards whose prison vans are banged with pitchforks. The same government that made cheap political capital out of the Philpott scandal will have no qualms in insinuating that the public interest is served in cutting legal aid so as to prevent paedophiles having the representation that they do not deserve. I am sure the furore over operation Yewtree ( Saville and others) will assist the government in spinning through their friends at the daily mail that on every street corner there exists a paedophile who will go free unless their legal aid is cut.

When the prisoner's wife went to visit his solicitor, she advised that she could not carry out the "leg work" of interviewing the defence witnesses because this is a legal aid case, and that the wife , who in this case was middle class and articulate young mother would have to approach those witnesses in an attempt to clear her husband's name. Tirelessly she investigated to the point that she took her own son on a site visit in order to time how long it would take for a ten year old boy to run from the locus to his home address. Her husband was cleared after the "investispouse" ( as it will become known as in the brave new world) , spoke to the accuser's mother who accepted it was all made up; in the real world of course this is not possible as said investspouse would be arrested for interfering with witnesses or worse perverting the course of justice.

In the meantime, her husband who did not ask to be accused of this or any offence was estranged from his family , and savagely beaten up and humiliated whilst in custody .

Under the new regime , "investispouse" will become even more common place as the provision of assistance by lawyers to legally aided clients are reduced to a skeletal service.

That is if legal aid is available  the middle class (albeit fictional) family in this case may have a disposable income of over 37k. The defendant didn't ask for the boy to lie about him sexually assaulting him, yet now has to obtain a loan against his home to fund his defence. Knowing that no matter what he pays for his representation , if acquitted he will only be reimbursed that which his solicitors would get if they were legally aided, he pays for the cheapest solicitor that will do the job. That solicitor can't do all the running around for this sum, and so from his prison cell, after having set up a bacs transfer to his solicitors, he gives investispouse instructions to prepare his case.

He is fortunate , many in his situation would not have a spouse, or a next of kin, or at least one that would provide the level of support that was received within this fictional series.

If these ill considered proposals go through, the story lines that emerge will certainly keep the screenwriters busy.