Garden Court Chambers responds to MoJ's Transforming Legal Aid proposals

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Garden Court Chambers has today submitted responses to the Ministry of Justice's consultation on Transforming Legal Aid. Both our Crime and Housing and Civil Teams have responded separately, addressing different aspects of the government's proposals.

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In an uncompromising response, our Crime Team describes the proposals as a "disgrace", adding that "all those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of this attempt to destroy a criminal justice system which is the envy of the world". Citing the minimal time allowed for responses, we further suggest that the consultation itself has been a sham.

We emphasise that criminal legal aid spending has already dramatically fallen from £1.34bn in 2003-04 to £1.08bn in 2011-12, and that further arbitrary reductions are likely to push the system past its breaking point.

Addressing the popular misconception that legal aid is allowing "fat cat lawyers" to rack up high fees, our Civil and Housing Teams remind the Lord Chancellor that legal aid lawyers are only paid the rates already controlled by the Legal Aid Agency, which are well below market rates. Furthermore there has been no increase in legal aid rates for 18 years, and costs are already tightly limited at each stage of a case.

Referring to the highly respected former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Alan Ward, we endorse his words from the recent judgment in Wright v Michael Wright Supplies Ltd & Anor [2013] EWCA Civ 234: "I shall not refrain from expressing my conviction that justice will be ill served indeed by this emasculation of legal aid."

We encourage those working in the legal sector, and those concerned about the welfare of the most vulnerable in society to read both of our submissions:

Garden Court Chambers will be joining today's Save Justice demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice at 16:00 to protest against the proposed cuts to Legal Aid.

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