Archive for April 21st, 2013

On April 1 cuts of £350 million from the legal aid budget of £2.1 billion came into effect.

As of now, there is no free legal advice for employment cases, non-asylum immigration cases, consumer rights and, most perniciously, welfare benefits.

Those needing welfare benefits advice are, obviously, the poorest in our society. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should of course get its decisions on who is entitled to what right.

Yet 40 per cent of challenges against DWP decisions succeed, showing that it freq­uently gets decisions wrong, most scandalously when disabled people are certified as fit for work.

From now on it will be almost impossible to get independent advice on whether to challenge a DWP decision.

There is now no legal aid available for family disputes, unless domestic violence is involved. This will actually lead to more disputed court cases and more acrimony between separating couples….

The full article by Liz Davies – The Fourth Pillar of The Establishment –  is a severe indictment of the current policy on legal aid and is well worth reading

The present Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, is not a lawyer.  This may not matter if he had a good understanding of the way his policies are likely to impact on people and the legal profession.

Interestingly, Simon Myerson QC tweeted this weekend in response to a tweet from Adam Wagner

@AdamWagner1 Hmm that’s such a difficult question. Yes. The AG said yesterday that Grayling didn’t understand the impact of his proposals…

Adam Wagner tweeted: Grayling in today’s Times: “cuts were .. painful for many in the law. But were they really the wrong thing to do?” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article3740749.ece …

It is an unfortunate state of affairs, to say the least,  when the Attorney-General feels obliged to make a comment of this nature about a Cabinet colleague.

With the row over QASA – many barristers are opposed – and the dire reforms of legal aid,  the government is compromising the quality of legal advice and representation available – often to the most vulnerable in society -and access to justice is being denied.

PJM QC@pjm1kbw 19 Apr

It can come as no surprise whatsoever to MoJ or HMCTS or the Judges that finally things have come to a head? #QASA

#FailingGrayling – as he is becoming known on twitter by lawyers – will, I am fairly sure,  reap the consequences, including unintended consequences, of his lack of grasp and understanding.

And if you still have any doubts about Grayling’s plans being overblown in the media – please read this article

High Street solicitors could be forced to close by Government legal aid changes
MORE than 1,500 High Street solicitors will be forced to close branches “within a year” if the Government’s controversial legal aid reform plans succeed.

The loss of High Street solicitors would also have a severe impact on barristers. Michael Turner QC, head of the Criminal Bar Association, warned: “Our barristers’ system will fail. Our brilliant judiciary comes from the Bar. Once you have Tesco and G4S providing advocates, you will get Tesco and G4S judges in 10 years’ time. Make no bones about it, we are facing absolute devastation to what is the finest legal system in the world.”

He rejected claims that Britain’s legal aid was the most expensive in Europe. “You have a different system there, with investigative magistrates who interview witnesses, and the big cost is the judicial spend.”

I shall leave the last word in this post to Simon Myerson QC…“Sundays in chambers. All it needs for perfection is that I have to do it for nothing. Oh wait. @MoJGovUK.”

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