Decline in access to criminal justice – another consequence of spending cuts

Monday October 18 2010 THE TIMES

Decline in access to criminal justice

Sir, Robin de Wilde’s concern about cuts affecting civil legal aid (letter, Oct 15) only covers part of a very serious problem. Legal aid funding has been slashed so that whole counties no longer have solicitors outside the cities taking criminal cases; franchises for criminal legal aid work will be reduced from hundreds to tens in large areas; and the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in more areas will have to travel farther to fewer magistrates courts to seek or receive justice. Is not access to criminal justice being hacked away?

And what of the quality of criminal justice once accessed? If, now with total incomes of only £25-£75 a day, half the self-employed criminal bar are unable to make a living, and fees are to be further slashed by 15 per cent, will they not be forced to take full-time employment with government prosecuting departments, such as the Crown Prosecution Service, or with “fee earning” solicitors’ firms (and the professions become fused)? What then will happen to the quality of specialist independent advocacy, of which this country has always been rightly so proud? Will this Government wake up to the fact that at a tiny fraction of the cost of other state welfare services, we have been getting criminal justice on the cheap? Although financial crises. and governments may come and go, the need for our society to be able to access decent criminal justice will  always be with us. Once destroyed it will not so easily ever be rebuilt.



About Sabine Kurjo McNeill

I'm a mathematician and system analyst formerly at CERN in Geneva and became an event organiser, software designer, independent web publisher and online promoter of Open Justice. My most significant scientific contribution is
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2 Responses to Decline in access to criminal justice – another consequence of spending cuts

  1. Colin Peters says:

    For a very long time there has been a need for scrutiny of the legal aid system.
    In a small works building dispute in 1986, my crooked client got legal aid, which eventually totalled up to £32,000,on a pack of so easily provable lies.
    Despite being supplied with the evidence in proof, his solicitors refused to do their duty and inform the legal aid board.
    When the case got to court, all of the claims that had got their clients legal aid were rejected by, and conceded to the court and the court ruled on a brand new set of claims from him.

    Despite it being proven that he had got legal aid by fraud and deception, their client was still allowed legal aid to defend against me in the Court of Appeal in London.
    In my case, legal aid, wrongly used and abused, was a very real handicap to me and to justice because once £32,000 had been expended on evading a debt of just £6,173, I could not be allowed to win.

  2. I find it VERY hard to hear and read more and horrible aspects of what is ultimately the consequence of our dishonest money system that creates greed and corruption. That ‘professionals’ and people in ‘authority’ are not immune to that, is the really sad aspect…

    Still, we can only try to do our best, each in our own way.

    With all my commitment and perseverance,


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