Socialist Worker

Cuts threaten basic legal rights

by Matt Foot, Criminal defence solicitor
Issue No. 2353

Lawyers aren’t known for striking, but a few weeks ago criminal defence barristers across the North West did just that. 

They are fighting government plans to demolish legal aid. 

This would introduce competitive tendering for legal aid in criminal cases. 

If you are arrested and require legal aid you will be forced to have the next lawyer on the list. You cannot change this lawyer throughout the case. 

The process will force 1,200 high street legal aid firms to close, leaving vast areas of the country unrepresented. 

A small number of large firms will survive by submitting cheap bids. One of the likely winners is an arm of the haulage firm Eddie Stobart. 

The police exaggerate, lie or get things wrong on a daily basis. Following the Hillsborough football tragedy, 164 police statements were substantially amended.

If police are not held to account by the legal system, miscarriages of justice will inevitably increase. 

Around 150 people have been charged with violent disorder as a result of the Gaza and student protests. Virtually none had ever been in trouble with the police. 

The fact that the accused could choose to have lawyers who had previously worked on public order cases helped save 50 students from prison.

A handful of barristers make excessive amounts from legal aid, and this should be stopped. But the Tory proposals won’t do that. They are nothing to do with savings. They are ideological. 

They are about denying people their basic right to proper representation and allowing the police and prosecution to have a free ride.

Save Legal Aid demonstration at Parliament, Wednesday 22 May, 10.30am. Sign the Save Justice UK petition epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628


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News
Tue 14 May 2013, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2353
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