The MOJ has this morning confirmed that it will pursue its overhaul of legal aid representation in police stations and magistrates’ courts despite widespread opposition from both the profession and outside justice campaigners who have repeatedly warned it will undermine justice and the right to a fair defence.
The MOJ announced today, following a high court ordered reconsultation, that it will restrict duty solicitor contracts from 1600 to just 527. The original figure which had been drawn up following what was then judged an ‘illegal’ consultation was little different at 525 contracts. The MOJ announced it will also push through a controversial split system of solicitor representation for those accused of a crime who qualify for public funding.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has been at the forefront of the opposition warning that such cuts to criminal legal aid will lead to similar chaos and denial of justice as we have already seen in civil courts. Following the split or ‘two-tier system’ of representation with the additional cuts, the LCCSA forecasts that two thirds of solicitor firms will close.
Jon Black, President of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association said:
This is a really depressing day. The MOJ has shown that it’s hell-bent on forcing through these cuts whatever the warnings, whatever the price to society and justice. Civil courts are imploding under the strain of legal aid cuts. The criminal courts are going the same way. By the time the public is really aware of the effects of his attack on our criminal justice, it will be too late.
This carve up of solicitor contracts in police stations and magistrates' courts, combined with yet more cuts will cause terrible collateral damage. A fair defence for those who aren’t wealthy will become a lottery. As firms start to close or cut corners to keep afloat we’ll see plummeting standards of defence and miscarriages of justice. It would seem that the government is unconcerned by this. But no-one should be hoodwinked, it’s too high a price to pay.
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Philippa Budgen: 07801 150 192