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  • March 7th, 2013

Criminal Offenders Face Legal Aid Bills

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The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has said he will claw back money from convicted criminals if the taxpayer has to pick up their legal bills. This comment comes as the Government come under fire about cuts to legal aid in an attempt to save up to £350m from a variety of civil cases such as family law, housing issues and clinical cases.

Mr Grayling said: “Criminal defence represents by far the largest element of our remaining legal aid spend, where we are still spending over £1bn a year.

“We are working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts.”

Also announced were new measures to clamp down on criminals hiding their assets to qualify for legal aid under the “Crown Court means-testing scheme”.

From July 2013, a defendant’s car can be seized and sold if convicted to help recoup their legal costs.

Other measures include making criminals pay the entire cost of their defence if they refuse to take part in means testing.

Chairman of the Bar Council, Maura McGowan QC, which represents barristers in England and Wales said: “Just as the Government faces pressure, we must also recognise the enormous pressure which publicly funded legal practitioners, particularly at the junior end of the profession, are under and how vital it is to the future of the justice system that they are able to pursue a viable career as specialist advocates and in the public interest.

“One of the proposals is a model based on price competition, which is a blunt instrument.

“It assures none of the safeguards and qualities which we must expect from our justice system. It cannot be one which properly underpins the effective operation of the rule of law.

Will cuts to legal aid in criminal law mean that people will not be able to get quality representation? Putting their future and lives at unnecessary risk? Let MJP know your views.


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