I cannot recall when we last saw a more effective lobbying campaign by the legal profession against government attacks on Justice. Score of blogs have been written and articles posted. Many of these are summarised by Patrick Torsney at
The arguments reflect a genuine concern about the impacts of these cuts on access to justice for ordinary people. The most recent and potentially most damaging is the removal of the right of defendants to select their own lawyer. The ministry of Justice has struggled to come up with any reasoned response. A petition has now been signed by over 80,000 and the numbers are growing by the hour. Once the signatories reached 10,000 the MOJ has had to publish a response. This is available to read on the petition page –
It is hard to imagine a less convincing document. All it talks about is cost and in particular that we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. The problem with this argument is that it assumes that all legal systems in the world are identical. I have no doubt that there are some countries who spend less money than we do on protecting the rights of their citizens.
Perhaps the MOJ knows that they have no convincing case. Because this week they have resorted to familiar cunning plan. They have gone to their friends in the press and launched an attack on lawyers. In a quite sickening report in the Daily Mail, figures were published showing how much was earned by some of the very top earners. The article includes a photograph of Mr Grayling looking at us accusingly for spending his money! –
Those figures have nothing at all to do with the current concerns. They bear no resemblance to the earnings of those overworked lawyers and staff who attend police stations at unearthly hours and spend long working days in court, often preparing for hearings long into the night. Most of them earn about the same as teachers or civil servants and probably much less than some reporters.
But there is something even more misleading about the ‘story’. It assumes that the lawyers who are campaigning are just trying to protect their own ‘gravy train’. I do not do criminal cases. My firm do not do criminal work. We have no commercial interest in the ‘reforms’. But we are fully behind the campaign. In fact I have yet to speak to any lawyer who is not.
This is because the proposals are wrong. They offend our most basic understanding of justice – that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If somebody is accused by the state they should have equal resources available to them.
If the MOJ has no answer to the campaign then it should revise the plans.
If the best it can do is get its mates in the press to try and throw some dirt then the future for justice is bleak indeed.