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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power