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Chief amongst these plans are cuts of £220 million in the annual budget for criminal legal aid and the removal of defendants’ rights to choose their own Legal Aid solicitor.
Partner and Criminal Law Solicitor Pete Mitchell was amongst those headed down to London yesterday. The demonstrations featured solicitors, barristers and other members of the legal profession, together with opposition politicians staging a mock funeral in front of Parliament featuring a coffin marked “RIP Legal Aid”.
After returning from the Justice for Sale event, held by senior lawyers to draw attention to the cuts, Pete said:
“Yesterday’s event was attended by in excess of 1,200 solicitors and barristers. It is clear that the Profession is not going to stand by and let the Justice Minister wreck the judicial system of this country. The mood remains that solicitors will not bid if a tendering process is to go forward. One way forward is to get this matter raised in Parliament so it can be debated properly and fully something Mr Grayling appears to shy away from. The e-petition is currently just under 56,000 but we need many more.”
In addition to cutting the funds available to pay for those who are accused of crimes to get professional legal representation, changes in the way that legal firms are allocated Legal Aid work has also come under fire. The changes will reduce the number of firms in each area able to bid for legal aid work. In Merseyside, for example, it is proposed that the number of firms dealing with legal aid work will be cut from 40 down to 14 and in addition, those accused of a crime will no longer be able to choose a particular solicitor to represent them.
As one of the prominent legal professionals attending yesterday’s protest, Jonathan Cooper QC said, “People do not realise they need legal aid until they become involved in a case. Everyone understands that they may need the NHS at some point but people don't believe they may need legal aid."
Here at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors we are opposed to the cuts in Legal Aid and the other changes proposed by the government. To show your concern, you can sign the ePetition on the Government’s ePetition website. You can also write to your MP. Click the link on the right of this page to view a sample letter, written by our own Criminal Law Solicitor Pete Mitchell to his MP, which you can use as a template.