Legal aid cuts 'crude and brutal'

Proposed cuts to the legal aid budget will cost more than they save and could leave more than half a million people "silenced in court", legal experts have warned.

The Bar Council and the Law Society, representing barristers and solicitors in England and Wales, said the cuts "could end up costing rather than saving taxpayers' money, with a devastating effect on access to justice", leaving hundreds of thousands of people unrepresented.



The warning comes as veteran campaigner Joanna Lumley backed the Sound Off For Justice campaign against Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's plans to axe civil legal aid for a wide range of disputes, including those over relationship break-ups, school admissions and expulsions, as well as clinical negligence.



The proposals would help save £350 million over the next four years, Mr Clarke said when he launched the Ministry of Justice's Green Paper last November.



But actress and Gurkha campaigner Ms Lumley said that without legal aid, cases like the Gurkha Justice Campaign "could never have been fought, let alone won".



"Everyone has a right to be heard," she said.



"I believe justice is only just if it is available to everyone."



Stephen Cobb QC, chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, said the proposals would trigger "a surge in DIY litigants which risks gridlock in the courts, as they struggle to get justice".



"The threats posed by the Government's proposals are real and potentially brutal," he said.



"In family cases, men or women suffering from serious psychological abuse may go unrepresented in private law proceedings.



"Parents, without representation, could face the removal of their children into care if the court finds reasonable grounds for believing that the children are suffering significant harm.



"Consumers suffering at the hands of negligent corporate entities may have to fund their own claims.



"The list is extensive."



He went on: "More people will face courtroom ordeals, without the benefit of experienced lawyers to advise them as to their rights and guide them through court procedures.



"Instead, where would-be litigants may be advised not to bring a claim, or to settle, they will turn to the courts alone.



"The impact on the court system will be longer trials, more appeals, more costs and the risk of miscarriages of justice.



"Worse still, without the help and support of a proper system of legal aid, vulnerable people whose rights have been infringed may not be in a position to pursue those rights at all. This is not the type of justice that a civilised society should expect."



Mr Cobb added: "We fear these attempted cuts, being so crude and brutal, will cost more than they save.



"In the absence of proper or reliable evidence on which the proposals are based, and our identification of clear unintended consequences, the Government cannot say with any confidence that the proposed cuts will not end up costing as much as it is trying to save.



"Put simply, the proposals don't add up."



The impact on the administration of justice, the running of the courts, and the burden on other departments such as the Department of Health, could all cost the Government the money it is trying to save, he said.



The Law Society, which represents solicitors, also criticised the proposals, saying they would mean more than half a million people each year "find themselves unrepresented and ultimately 'silenced in court"'.



Linda Lee, the society's president, said: "We recognise that in this tough economic climate tough decisions need to be made, but these must not risk doing lasting damage to access to justice.



"We believe what is currently on the table is just another example of panic-stricken cuts.



"We believe these cuts are ill conceived and unfair and that the Government risks doing long-lasting damage to justice in this country. Sound Off For Justice aims to give the public the voice to say no."





Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "At more than £2 billion a year, we pay far more per head than most other countries for legal aid.



"The current system encourages lengthy, acrimonious and sometimes unnecessary court proceedings, at taxpayers' expense, which do not always ensure the best result for those involved."



"We need to make clear choices to ensure that legal aid will continue to be available in those cases that really require it, the protection of the most vulnerable in society, and the efficient performance of the justice system.



"Our proposals aim to radically reform the system and encourage people to take advantage of the most appropriate sources of help, advice or routes to resolution - which will not always involve the expense of lawyers or courts.



"We will now give careful consideration to all consultation responses."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering