Legal Aid

Legal Aid folly

PUBLISHED November 20, 2006


May I draw attention to the foolishness of the way in which means testing for legal aid has been reintroduced. This was done to save money and applies to those earning the average wage or slightly below. The following is but one example of the effects of the folly.

Over the weekend before last a client of this firm, a man in modestly paid full-time work (?12,500 pa net), was arrested and charged with some offences. We assisted him at the police station with his interviews and with the forms to apply for a legal aid ?representation order?. After charge, the client was kept in custody by the police and on the following Monday was produced at his ?local? magistrates court (40 miles away). In the meantime, his legal aid application was refused on the basis of his means. As a result he was not represented before the court and was remanded in custody for a week.  
By this Monday, of course, the situation had changed. Knowing that as a result of being remanded our client had lost his job ? and no income ? we were able to travel to the ?local? court confident that our client would now qualify for legal aid. And so it came to pass, and we appeared on his behalf. We made an application for bail, which was duly granted.

It can thus be seen that the reintroduction of means testing in this case has produced: 1)The expense of prison accommodation for our client for a week; 2) The expense of the state benefits which our client will now need to claim, 3) A week?s delay and an unnecessary hearing in the Court; and 4) No saving of legal aid costs as the work avoided last Monday was done at the same cost this Monday.

Oh, and by the way, but perhaps of no importance to the powers that be, the loss of our client?s liberty for a week.

Bunting & Riley Solicitors
Buxton, Derbyshire