Above the entrance to The Old Bailey is inscribed the admonition, “Defend the Children of the Poor & Punish the Wrongdoer“.
Well… after the Tory Conference this week and the fiasco on Child Benefit, this part of the inscription may leave some reeling and as to the second part; while I am sure that The Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke QC, is keen, on behalf of the floggers, hangers and deporters of middle Britain, to punish as many wrongdoers as possible – he doesn’t seem terribly keen (a) on having lawyers involved or (b) putting wrongdoers into costly prisons or (c) having that many courts to deal with wrongdoers.
Kenneth Clarke reveals what cuts will mean for the courts
Joshua Rozenberg reports: It’s not just using lawyers that ministers want to discourage, it’s using the courts themselves.
The forthcoming consultation paper on legal aid will be a “total review”, Djanogly told a Policy Exchange debate. “It will look at the scope of legal aid, at eligibility, at mechanics and how best to merge the Legal Services Commission with the Ministry of Justice.”
He promised that it would be very much more than a savings exercise. “The review is going to take account of financial constraints, the interests of justice, access to justice and public interest implications.”
It’s not just using lawyers that ministers want to discourage, it’s using the courts themselves. People who might otherwise have fought their cases in court will be channelled into alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation.
So, it would seem that legal aid has to be cut back, although this may be difficult in criminal cases and, certainly for serious cases involving children, and it may be that we will see magistrates being given extra powers – assuming, of course, that they haven’t closed all the courts down.
Justice on the cheap? Well… as the old saying going goes… if you pay peanuts.. you get monkeys. We are luck to have so many who are prepared to serve as magistrates for free. We can’t expect them to undertake a great deal more work and is it fair to expect lay benches to deal with matters which previous wisdom suggested should be dealt with at the Crown Court?
Things are not looking good for Justice. I gather that The Supreme Court, listed as a ‘Quango’ (would you believe) is still ‘under review’. Our senior judges do not get obscene salaries – there are clowns running town halls paid far more – so what sort of ‘British Justice’ system the Coalition government wants will, no doubt, be revealed in time and it will, of course, be Labour’s fault that we have to strip it to the bone.