Innocent people will be jailed if criminal law cuts are enforced, warns Leicestershire legal expert
Miscarriages of justice will take place if Government plans to slash the Criminal Legal Aid budget goes ahead, warns a leading Leicestershire law firm
Paul Tubb, a criminal legal aid expert at QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank has called on the public to join the fight against the changes.
“There will be miscarriages of justice and a second rate legal system where finances will dictate proper legal representation,” warned Mr Tubb, whose firm have branches in Coalville and Hinckley.
The Ministry of Justice’s intends to cut £220m from the criminal legal aid budget of about £1bn a year and under the proposals those with a household income of more than £37,500 a year, will be ineligible for help in crown court hearings.
“There will be tendering for legal aid contracts to represent defendants in courts, defendant’s won’t be able to choose their own solicitor, and the Ministry of Justice proposes paying lawyers the same rate regardless of whether it is an early guilty plea or a contested trial, which will incentivise people to plead guilty,” he added. “This will mean some innocent people being imprisoned as they haven’t the help or deep enough pockets to fight their case.”
Mr Tubb added that many firms which have been part of their community will close, as the current plans will reduce the number of firms permitted to conduct criminal legal aid work from around 1,600 to less than 400, leaving voids in the community.
He said: “The implications for the public, the legal profession, and justice in general are profound which is why so many in our profession have taken to Westminster waving placards. It’s utter madness.”
He called on the public to now join in the fight.
“This affects all the citizens in our country, and so far this debate has received very little prime time media coverage and engagement from the public – probably as they are so unaware,” added Mr Tubb.
Citizens Advice have joined in the fight claiming that the proposed reduction in funding available to law firms for criminal cases could have the unintended consequence of reducing access to advice for anyone seeking guidance on any legal matter, including complex and sensitive family issues such as custody rights.
Gillian Guy, a spokesperson for Citizens Advice voiced the organisation’s fears.
“Further cuts to legal aid funding threaten the fundamental principle of the universal right to access justice,” she said. “The Government’s consultation is focused on criminal cases but if people simply can’t talk to a solicitor as more and more firms are forced to close, then the knock-on effects could be devastating for everyone in society, not just the individuals facing charges.
“By cutting funding, the number of legal firms capable of delivering advice could be drastically reduced and leave innocent, desperate people stranded in justice deserts,” she warned.
Mr Tubb called on the public of Coalville to add their voice, by signing an online petition against the changes.
“We need everyone to fight against these ludicrous ideas,” he said. “In the interests of justice please sign your name.”
The e-petition is at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628 and on QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank’s Facebook page.
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