Ever been arrested or ended up in court? We need your help to save legal aid..
There has been a lot in the news about ‘Fat Cat’ lawyers and the legal aid system. But in reality most criminal lawyers are not fat cat and they work in this area of law because it interests them and they are interested in the clients….although I accept many people will have heard of a criminal lawyer just in it for the money.
Ignoring the lawyers and the impact the legal aid changes will have on them, I want to focus on the impact it will have on those who end up in the criminal justice system, both in the police station and in court. And I need your help to respond to the Government’s legal aid consultation paper. I want to provide a response which includes the true impact that the legal aid changes will have on people who need to use it.
The main proposed changes to criminal legal aid are:
* Plans to reduce the number of local solicitors on the police station duty solicitor scheme. The scheme to be given to 4 mega firms who will cover the whole county – so far the indication is that at least one of these mega firms will be a non law firm such as StobartLaw or Cooperative or Tescolaw. The impact of this will be that a detainee will probably have to wait longer to see duty representative as there will be fewer of them and they will be traveling the whole county. Also the Government proposed fees for the police station duty scheme will be so low that the firms will not be able to offer an experienced lawyer, but instead someone who is very inexperienced and who is working to targets and budgets.
*Defendants who are charged will not be able to change lawyers after the police station. They will have to stay with the firm that represented them in the police station, even if a defendant isn’t satisfied with the service that they had from the firm, that will not justify a need to change. Likewise there will no longer be the option to find a lawyer who is a specialist in the particular area of criminal law that the defendant is charged, and those defendants who have a preferred lawyer who always represents them – well that will be a thing of the past.
* Most of the so called lawyers who will be turning up to court to represent defendants in the Magistrates Court will be plea only lawyers, and will not be able to represent a defendant with anything other than a guilty plea, and obviously won’t get paid unless they get a guilty plea. So a defendant will be given ‘independent’ legal advice on whether to plead Guilty or Not Guilty from a person who only gets paid if they get a ‘guilty’ plea. And these representatives will be on targets from their employer so their incentive will be to get their defendant to plead guilty.
There are other changes but I don’t want to drag out this post too much..I will write about the prison law changes in another thread as I need your help on that score as well.
So what can you do to help?
Email me any views you have on this, I am particularly interested to hear from anyone who has been through the criminal justice system or who is currently going through the police station or court system. How would these changes affect you if they had already been implemented? firstname.lastname@example.org
There is an epetition against these cuts, Save UK Justice petition please click on the link and consider signing.
Please don’t be complacent about this..there is a real danger that this Government is going to destroy your right to a lawyer and legal representation unless we do something about it now. Please don’t also think that the legal profession alone can prevent this from happening, we can’t, it requires a lot of public support as well, and sadly…due to a few ‘fat cat’ lawyers we do not get the support.
We need your help on this…so please take some time to do something about it…just 5 minutes in an email to me and 3 minutes clicking the petition link can make the difference between a future with criminal legal aid and one without.
Alison Gurden, Barrister, 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers. www.alisongurden.com