More tales about Legal Aid!

by Ray_North on November 12, 2014

justiceI had to share this with you.

There I was this morning, walking to Court with another barrister – he’s a nice fella, I’ve known him years. He is also, an arch proponent of the coalition and card carrying member of the Lib-Dems.

As we walked he turned to me with a contended look on his chops and suggested that I was now ‘eating humble pie,’ and that I must have ‘revised my position about the coalition.’

‘What?’ I replied, ‘why?’

‘Well,’ he said, ‘you predicted economic chaos, but now, the economy is the strongest in Europe, and it’s all down to the coalition taking tough decisions.’

I sighed, but didn’t really have the time or the inclination to get into an argument with him, but, I did ask him if he was happy that the ‘growth’ we are now ‘enjoying’ was actually being enjoyed by everyone.

Later, we were in the same Court. He was prosecuting a man charged with rape. There are three child witnesses – the man pleaded not guilty to the charges and the matter was adjourned for trial. Alas, the next time the Court had enough Judges and available staffed Courts to hear his case was next June – which will be over two years after the incident took place.

That is not the fault of the police, that is not the fault of the defendant or the children who were the victims and witnesses to this alleged incident – it is the fault of the government who have cut back the Ministry of Justice budget.

It is a delay that will undermine the prospect of justice being secured in that particular case.

He was also in Court when my case was called on – I was defending a young man charged with causing horrific injuries to his girlfriend’s toddler. He has never been in trouble in his life and his instructions to me have been that he didn’t do it and that the injuries were caused accidentally and as a result of a pre-existing medical condition. The Prosecution have an expert paediatrician who says otherwise. I have tried to instruct my own expert to challenge the prosecution’s case – thus far, the Legal Services Commission have rejected my application to extend my client’s legal aid certificate to cover the payment to an expert – which is what they are told to do, because cuts to their budgets means that they will only accept such applications in certain types of cases.

It matters not that my client is innocent unless proven guilty, it matters not that he has never been in trouble before, it matters not that he may go to prison for 8 years on unchallenged expert opinion, it matters not that, as a scaffolder, he couldn’t possibly afford to pay for an expert out of his own pocket.

That is not justice.

I am confident that eventually, when I kick up enough of a fuss, I will get my extension, but, only because I will make a fuss – how many others don’t bother? How many other people are convicted because the cuts to the Legal Services Commission budget means that they are unable to properly defend themselves against the charges brought against them?

We may have growth. But we have an economic policy that is undermining our society and everything that is good about it.

Rant over.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth November 13, 2014 at 8:35 am

That is not the problem.

The problem is that the cuts in legal aid are popular. Ask your nice barrister friend.


John Stone November 13, 2014 at 11:38 am

How can justice be just if only one side has the means to access specialist skills needed to prosecute or defend a case? I bet those on the right who whine about the cost of legal aid would be the first to squeal if they needed it themselves.

Just one more step on the route (back) to a tyranny of the wealthy.


Fionauk512 November 14, 2014 at 11:34 pm

We are already experiencing a tyranny by the wealthy.


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