Legal aid must be protected, says police commissioner
12:00am Saturday 19th October 2013 in News
LEGAL aid for those who need it most must be protected, according to Bolton’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Tony Lloyd is calling for a complete government rethink on legal aid reforms, which he says would deny justice to those who need it most.
He is backing comments by the UK’s top judge, Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger, who has said reduced access to legal aid would be a “rank denial of justice and a blot on the rule of law”.
Mr Lloyd said: “Cutting legal aid will deprive the most vulnerable in our communities who need the protection of the courts and legal system the most. This is unacceptable and is why I support the comments made by Lord Neuberger.”
The Ministry of Justice wants to ‘transform’ legal aid in a bid to cuts costs.
But the proposals have so far met criticism from legal experts forcing Justice Secretary Chris Grayling into a u-turn on some aspects of the proposals, including plans to introduce price competitive tendering for legal aid contracts.
But the Government is still pressing ahead with plans to cut the budget for legal aid which would reduce the number of legal aid cases and could stop people receiving legal advice and representation.
Mr Lloyd said: “I’ve said before that these plans are ill-thought out and Chris Grayling has already made an embarrassing climb-down on plans to take away people’s right to choose their own solicitor and to tender out legal aid contracts to the lowest bidder — which would have effectively turned the legal aid system into a form of bargain-basement justice.
“These proposals continue to unravel and it’s time the Justice Secretary listened to the legitimate concerns of the judiciary and legal profession and go back to the drawing board before he destroys the justice system of which this country is renowned the world over.”
The consequences of the reforms, says Lord Neuberger, would mean that a person who cannot get legal aid will drop the claim, or they will continue to pursue the claim inefficiently, which will take up more of the court staff’s and judge’s time both in and out of court, resulting in more costs and delays to the court system.
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