FOR THE ATTENTION OF:
Bob Russell MP
Friday 17 May 2013 name redacted
telephone number redacted
Dear Bob Russell,
Re: Legal aid cuts
I write as your constituent to express my serious concern about new proposals for legal aid.
On 9 April 2013, the Government issued a consultation paper entitled “Transforming Legal Aid”. This proposes further significant changes and cuts to legal aid, closely following the considerable cuts introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which came into force on 1 April 2013. The deadline to respond is 4 June 2013.
The Government would restrict the ability of individuals to choose their lawyer. It would give large contracts to firms or businesses for the cheapest bid irrespective of the quality of service. Small and medium-sized business will be at risk of closure and the incentive to provide high quality representation and client care will disappear as firms no longer have to compete to attract clients.
Competition is vital to the whole process of Lawyers providing Service of the highest Standards; see The Legal 500
http://www.legal500.com/books/l500.Lawyers and Law Firms take great pride in both providing excllent service and seeking to provide top class service to their diverse clientele.
If these Cuts are allowed to go ahead there are many grave consequences which will be highly costly to the Taxpayer.
There will no longer be equality before the law. Legal aid in all civil cases will be subject to a discriminatory “residence” test. Many vulnerable people, including homeless families, victims of domestic violence and trafficked children will no longer be able to rely on the protection of the law. Under this proposal groundbreaking cases involving the accountability of the state for the actions of the armed forces abroad could not have been brought.
It is essential Cases that break new ground are able to be brought to court as these help promote Justice at every level and to all manner of people.
Legal aid will no longer be paid for the early stages of judicial review claims (unless the case passes
the “permission” stage). Without the help of legal aid judicial review will simply not be possible for
the majority. The ordinary citizen will no longer be able to hold the state to account.
It is absolutely vital the State is held to account for it’s Executive Decisions. Often the Government make bad,ill-informed and downright unlawful decisions. Judicial Review claims will result in better decisions being made as a result of the Courts.
Prisoners will no longer receive legal aid for many important issues such as whether they are
treated lawfully and humanely in the prison system or how they will be supported to avoid reoffending. These proposals are in direct conflict with the Government’s stated commitment to rehabilitating offenders and reducing crime.
It is both in the interest of Prisoners and Ex-Offenders to get the Rehabilitation that they need as well as have Prison terms that do not violate their rights. This makes for a happier more functioning system. The productivity resulting out of this will benefit the criminal legal economy and the wider economy.
There will be further cuts to the fees paid in criminal, civil, family and immigration cases. These
cuts threaten the quality of legal representation and the sustainability of the profession. The cuts
will hit low earning junior lawyers the hardest.
The Government needs to be promoting the wellbeing of young up and coming Lawyers in their Careers and provide incentives for their Career Growth rather than these cuts that would threaten their Career Paths.
Cut to experts’ fees will make it very difficult to bring or defend cases which depend on crucial
expert evidence, such as child care proceedings or cases involving vulnerable and mentally ill people.
Experts are vital in the Legal Process in order to see that Cases are brought fairly and the legal testing of Evidence has all the Evidence they need to fairly and justly bring a Case.
In my view, if these changes are brought in there will be fewer people able to access the help they need, and there may no longer be quality lawyers able to provide that advice.
People having access to the appropriately qualified |Lawyers would help them bring their Case ie John Charles de Menzes with Micheal Mansfield QC. http://thejusticegap.com/News/a-long-and-bitter-struggle/
as an example of a Top ranking Lawyer who takes on intellectually challenging but compelling Cases.
I would like to ask if you would be willing to:
Meet with me to discuss the proposals
Raise my concerns with the Ministry of Justice
Support the Early Day Motion speaking out against competitive tendering, lodged by Elfyn Llwyd MP
Be ready to pray against or support amendments to the secondary legislation by which these proposals will be implemented in Autumn 2013.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter. I look forward to hearing from you.
Ms Katharine JA Hillier
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