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Michael Gove has scrapped the Government's planned legal aid cuts

The second wave of cuts were planned by Mr Gove's predcessor Chris Grayling and had attracted protest

Jon Stone
Thursday 28 January 2016 18:36 GMT
The Justice Secretary Michael Gove
The Justice Secretary Michael Gove (Getty)

The Government has scrapped major cuts to the criminal legal aid system in England and Wales, it has announced.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove said he had decided not to go ahead with the plan, which was drawn up by his predecessor Chris Grayling.

The proposals, to reduce legal aid fees by 8.75 per cent and cut duty solicitors at magistrates’ courts and police stations by two thirds, were highly criticised by the legal profession.

Mr Gove cited 99 separate legal challenges against the policy and more funding from the Treasury allowing “greater flexibility” with legal aid as the reason for the U-turn.

“By not pressing ahead with dual contracting, and suspending the fee cut, at this stage we will, I hope, make it easier in all circumstances for litigators to instruct the best advocates, enhancing the quality of representation in our courts,” Mr Gove said.

Cuts of 8.75 per cent to legal aid have already been introduced in March 2014 and this round of reductions would have been the second wave.

Last summer solicitors and barristers held 52 days of industrial action against the proposed policy.

The shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer accused the Government of wasting money on the enterprise.

“This is a staggering admission from the Tory government and represents a final confirmation that their plans to reform criminal legal aid have descended into utter chaos,” he said.

“The Government must now come clean about how much public money has been wasted on this doomed endeavour, so that ministers can be held fully accountable for this fiasco.”

The policy is one of a number of proposals scrapped by Mr Gove that were introduced by his predecessor.

The Justice Secretary also cancelled a contract to run the Saudi Arabian prison system and reversed a ban on prisoners being sent books in prison.

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