Plan to make criminals pay defence costs

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The Independent Online

Defendants convicted at the Crown Court may have to pay towards the cost of their defence under proposals announced today aimed at saving £50m from legal aid.

Convicted criminals who can afford it will pay an average of around £2,500 each if the plans are approved.



Means testing would mean those who cannot afford to pay - the majority of defendants - would still have their defence paid for.



Separate plans would cap the amount available to defendants to the legal aid limit or deny funding to those who pay for their own lawyers and do not seek legal aid at the start of their case.



Justice Minister Lord Bach said the money saved from the £2bn legal aid budget could then be spent on more deserving defendants.



"The proposals set out in these consultation papers will fairly and effectively require all those defendants who are convicted and who can genuinely afford to pay some or all of their legal aid costs to do so," he said.



"A number of people could afford to contribute to their defence in whole or in part in the Crown Court and the Government is committed to them doing so.



"It is right that convicted defendants who are able to pay for their legal costs should do so, rather than the taxpayer."



A pilot scheme in five areas will give all Crown Court defendants legal aid and try to recoup the costs from the better off.



Swingeing cuts are expected in the court services as public spending feels the pressure of the credit crunch.



Up to 10,000 jobs could go in the prison, probation and court services as the Ministry of Justice seeks to save more than £900m, it has been reported.