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Legal aid access to be restricted

Legal aid access to be restricted

Crime suspects will be prevented from automatically accessing legal aid if they live in a household where there is a disposable income of more than £37,500 under proposals to be announced by the government.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is aiming to cut £220 million from the criminal legal bill and this reform proposal is one of many he has put out to consultation. The changes would mean prisoners’ legal aid rights would be restricted, and they could also mean that lawyers would compete for contracts.

Mr Grayling said:

“We have an excellent tradition of legal aid and one of the best legal professions in the world. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact legal aid is still costing too much. It is not free money, it is paid for by hard-working taxpayers, so we must ensure we get the very best value for every penny spent.”

The consultation is launched as the Justice Secretary also said that measures could be implemented so that future earnings of criminals pay for courts’ running costs. The Government also wants to cut down on expensive cases which use millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, although there are a small number of these. Proposals have also been put forward for a residency test, to make sure immigrants who have just arrived into Britain do not receive legal aid.

However, solicitors did not back proposals to bring in competition for legally-aided representation and advice. Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said:

“In several previous attempts, the Government has been unable to come up with a workable model for price tendering, and we do not see how they will be able to address the fundamental difficulties this time round.

“We also think it is implausible that tendering will save the sort of sums of money the Treasury is looking for, and there is some doubt whether it will save anything at all.”

We have one of the leading teams of criminal law specialists in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team: call us on 03456 381381 (or 24-hour emergency line 0330 999 4999) or email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.