storyboard 15. the cost of justice

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This week, the Government proposed radical reforms for the legal aid system.

"Shake-up aims to curb pounds 1.4bn costs of justice," thundered the Times. "Shake-up poses big risks," countered the Guardian. "Shake-up cuts costs but stirs a storm," chimed in the Independent The Telegraph announced a "budget to curb excessive calls on the taxpayer", while the Mail welcomed "curbs to end the legal aid shambles".

Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, who announced the reforms. In the biggest overhaul of the legal aid system in its 47-year history, Tuesday's Government White Paper outlined the first controls on what has been a demand-led scheme. Annual legal aid spending, which has doubled in the last five years to pounds 1.4bn, would be capped, and legal services would be supplied by citizens' advice bureaux and law centres, as well as lawyers. Everyone, including the low-paid, would have to pay a contribution in civil and criminal cases, and would be liable for an opponent's costs should they lose.

The Independent asserted that "the Government wants to discourage people from resorting to the expensive business of going to law", but the Telegraph resigned itself to the fact that "rationing there will have to be". The Times believed that Lord Mackay "may be able to improve the quality of some services" but foresaw "an unwelcome growth in bureaucracy", and although the Guardian agreed that "a contributory principle does help weed out weak and undeserving cases", it called the new plans "far too oppressive".

"It's election time. Once again, the Government is pandering to the gripes of Middle England, and squeezing those most in need of help out of the frame."

What not to say:

"British justice - it's still the best in the world."

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