to think none of you are taking this seriously enough

(384 Posts)
babybarrister Tue 21-May-13 23:01:46

Legal Aid is about to be decimated for criminal hearings - the reality is that anyone who can buy a better service certainly will do and the poor will get left with being represented by very low quality advocates

is this really the sign of a civilised society?

is this really what people want? a series of awful miscarriages of justice which will only be uncovered in 15 years time?

what happens if it is your relative who gets wrongly arrested and charged and then represented by someone incompetent and then imprisoned?

please have a read about the issue and consider contributing to the consultation before we all sleep walk into a police state - there is a demonstration tomorrow outside Parliament and the consultation shuts on 4th June


ReindeerBollocks Tue 21-May-13 23:06:36

Did you see CG on parliamentary questions talking about it earlier today?

Sounds like a done deal personally. Especially as the opposing MP's weren't asking the right questions about the long term effects of this.

Eddie Stobart law has already happened. This is the future of criminal law.

ReindeerBollocks Tue 21-May-13 23:07:58

Eddie has a website for barristers. He's already created a chambers and some of your lot have already joined. There's a website up and running.

It's a matter of time before that 'firm' are granted several contracts via PCT

LarvalFormOfOddSock Tue 21-May-13 23:09:57

I'm a CAB adviser and we're taking it very seriously! Most of our paid specialist staff were funded through legal aid.

Boomba Tue 21-May-13 23:10:53

We aren't taking any of it serious enough
We should be rioting about the crap that's going down at the moment

noisytoys Tue 21-May-13 23:12:48

I fear this is only the start of the cuts. The Tories are going to destroy this country sad

ReindeerBollocks Tue 21-May-13 23:13:51

There was a march this evening. There is a day long 'meeting' (can't call it a strike wink ) tomorrow in our area.

People are taking it seriously enough but Grayling is undeterred. I have a feeling it's being pushed through regardless, even though the new system is full of holes.

ReindeerBollocks Tue 21-May-13 23:15:36

Plus think of how far reaching its going to be. Under the new CDS reforms there will be no paper legal aids submitted, and lots of people who deal with admin at court will also lose their jobs. Barristers, Solicitors and admin staff are really on the knife edge at the moment.

<dons armour>

caramelwaffle Tue 21-May-13 23:16:44

Adding to my Watch list.

Important bunp

caramelwaffle Tue 21-May-13 23:16:53


TwoTearsInABucket Tue 21-May-13 23:17:36

A friend of mine sent a link to an online petition. She explained what it means. It sounds gross.
How does anyone stop it happening?

NumTumDeDum Tue 21-May-13 23:22:59

I totally agree Babybarrister, I used to be a practitioner. People don't care unfortunately until it happens to them or someone they know. Otherwise it only affects those people, you know, those 'criminals'. I was frequently asked how I lived with myself representing criminals and trying to 'get them off'. I always replied that my job was not to get anyone off but to test the evidence and to assist the courts in applying the law.

The rot has already set in though. We all rolled over for LASPO and this will happen too unless we stop being so apathetic. Access to justice is simply not going to be available to all and people will not understand or appreciate this until it happens to them and it's too late.

babybarrister Tue 21-May-13 23:24:33

I do know that the lawyers on here have been raising this but MN has almost a million members and there are only 9,000 signagtures on the petition ,

BitBewildered Tue 21-May-13 23:29:18

Signed and bump!

NumTumDeDum Tue 21-May-13 23:31:46

Signed. We should bump this daily.

LineRunner Tue 21-May-13 23:36:31

I agree with you babybarrister.

Thank you for the link.

VengefulCrumpet Tue 21-May-13 23:38:49


roseannebarr Tue 21-May-13 23:42:49


Signed and shared on fb.

Hissy Tue 21-May-13 23:52:23

Me too! shared on FB & Twitter.

KindnessofStrangers Tue 21-May-13 23:52:39

Totally agree. Our legal system is held up as an example of fairness to the world. This is the end of that fairness. People who presume it is doesn't affect them need to hope they never need the assistance that legal aid currently provides.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Wed 22-May-13 00:56:23

Signed. It's scary one government can change the shape and fairness of our society sad

RiotsNotDiets Wed 22-May-13 01:01:28

signed and shared

BillyGoatintheBuff Wed 22-May-13 01:14:38


ElectricSheep Wed 22-May-13 01:26:16


It's terrifying to think you could end up serving a prison term because you are poor. Like the 19C for goodness sake. Still why should the posh boys care? It'll never be one of them.

Snazzywaitingforsummer Wed 22-May-13 01:26:48

Reminder to myself to sign in the morning.

hugsandbutterflies Wed 22-May-13 01:30:13


Wylye Wed 22-May-13 01:59:55


thismumismad Wed 22-May-13 05:31:41

Have signed and shared

YoniMatopoeia Wed 22-May-13 05:38:01

Marking place to access petition when I am on laptop rather than phone.

beeny Wed 22-May-13 06:07:19

Well done for post

TheFallenNinja Wed 22-May-13 06:14:40

Can I just point out that if the legal profession didn't charge such ridiculous rates then this problem would be less.

Merle Wed 22-May-13 06:20:24

We don't charge ridiculous rates. We are paid on criminal legal aid rates, which have been progressively reduced over the last decade.

Yesterday I worked for nothing, trying to ensure that a dangerous person got the detention/treatment, they/the public needs. That's how bad it has got.

The petition is now half-way there; 50,000. Please consider signing.

Merle Wed 22-May-13 06:26:54

Also I should say that this isn't about what we get paid, much as I would like to make a living.

Price competitive tendering means block contracts of work - cheapest, least qualified/ experienced wins. You will be allocated a lawyer. That person will be permitted a fixed amount of time to work on your case. The payment structures will penalise those who want to have a trial, so there is a conflict of interest between you and your lawyer; they are not acting in your best interests but would rather you played the game and pleaded guilty (even if you are innocent).

Could go on about it for hours, but must get on with the ironing/getting kids to school, etc.

VelvetSpoon Wed 22-May-13 06:27:44

This is a MASSIVE issue.

Unfortunately, the general public have been fed so much bullshit by the media over the years that they believe all the 'fatcat lawyer' stuff - as the post by Fallen Ninja proves.

In criminal law, there are a few barristers at the very top earning 6 figure salaries. They are the exception For the average barrister, they may only be on £20-25k at best. With considerable travel expenses to pay out of that, fees to chambers, other overheads. It's not a lucrative job by any means - same applies to solicitors/police station reps who practice criminal law.

And in any event. it's not just about the lawyers, it's about access to justice. There will be no legal aid. If you are charged with a criminal offence, you will have to pay for legal representation, however serious the charge. If you can't pay, presumably you have to simply admit the offence - how on earth can that be right?!

Fightlikeagirl Wed 22-May-13 06:29:17


ballstoit Wed 22-May-13 06:31:32

My brother did something incredibly stupid (was financial not violent) as a teenager which could easily have seen him sent to prison. His barrister argued for community service and a suspended sentence, and evidenced why this would be as effective, if not more so. My dB is now a youth worker, working with teenagers to prevent offending.

It horrifies me to think what may happen should my ds end up in court for a first offence, or wrongly accused in other future.

As my brothers barrister argued, sending a young man to prison, is an effective way to increase his likelihood of reoffending.

danceponydance Wed 22-May-13 06:34:18

Signed and shared on FB.

BlueyDragon Wed 22-May-13 06:37:35

Ridiculous rates, FallenNinja? Do you know what fees you get paid at the lower end of criminal work? When I was in practice a few years ago now, a piece of Magistrates' Court work (not a full trial) might be in the region of £40. That piece of work might have taken an hour or it might have taken all day, not including travelling time. And that is when I got paid at all. Legal aid rates haven't risen much since then. Ignore the legal aid rich lists - those individuals and firms are very much the exception and the figures are skewed by the way cases are paid, sometimes years after the work is done.

You get what you pay for. If we aren't prepared to pay for our criminal justice system so all those involved can be fairly and properly represented in what is a State versus Individual situation then we will deserve our fate. I wish this country would stop making criminal justice policy based on a combination of The Daily Mail's opinion and wishful thinking.

Signed and shared.

Trazzletoes Wed 22-May-13 06:40:06

Ninja <snort> Round here binmen get paid DOUBLE what many Legal Aid solicitors/ barristers are on. And don't even get me started on the Tube drivers...

But my point is that Legal Aid rates pay very very little. It's very hard to provide a service on those rates and still keep a business afloat.

These are very very worrying times.

cafecito Wed 22-May-13 06:46:54

access to justice has been torn to shreds all over the place (clin neg, family..) if you have money to pay for these things, or capital above the limit, or like most people just think you won't need these things and never consider it, you don't understand the impact this has on barring proper justice. It's really shameful

Lovelygoldboots Wed 22-May-13 06:47:49

Signed and shared.

BusStopWanker Wed 22-May-13 06:48:57

Under a Tory government it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. The Tories must be rubbing their hands together in glee thinking about how many of the feckless poor will left without any sort of legal help whatsoever - not being able to challenge the change in benefits, single parents not being able to get legal help with the family court etc. hmm Bastards!

Have signed the petition.


I can't share because I don't have a facebook account, so I've e-mailed the link to everyone in my contacts' list.

Signed and shared.

KittensoftPuppydog Wed 22-May-13 07:06:34

Signed. I don't know what bump means.

CorrieDale Wed 22-May-13 07:11:48

Signed and shared. And bumped. Multi-tasking at 7.11!

Can't sign right now as I am on the Xbox but will later. So just bumping for the moment.

Well done for posting this.

kungfupannda Wed 22-May-13 07:35:00

"Can I just point out that if the legal profession didn't charge such ridiculous rates then this problem would be less."

That's an interesting viewpoint.

Would you like to give some examples of "ridiculous" legal aid rates? They are easily available if you look online.

Then we can discuss our "ridiculous rates" properly.

Merle Wed 22-May-13 07:35:36

Busstop actually it does surprise me, because the Conservatives used to be the party of Law and Order. This lot actually don't give a damn.

Unrelated but it is a scandal the way that the police are under-charging crime, in order to make it look as if it has fallen, when in fact they are giving repeat shoplifters fixed penalty notices, which is then not officially 'crime'.

I tell you, we are being ruled by maniacs.

OnwardBound Wed 22-May-13 07:42:41


kungfupannda Wed 22-May-13 07:46:03

Actually, that was snarky.

I'm perfectly well aware that the vast majority of non-lawyers believe that legal aid lawyers have some vast hourly rate and are milking the public purse for all it's worth.

One example:

If a defendant elects Crown Court trial - as has always been their right for the majority of offences - when the magistrates' court was willing to deal with it, and subsequently decides to plead guilty for whatever reason, the barrister's fee is £200.

That £200 may well cover two, possibly even three appearances at the Crown Court, even in a straightforward case, a conference with the client, written advice and fairly extensive prep time.

The solicitors will get around £350 for the same case. That will cover their first appearance, possibly two, at the magistrates' court, the preparation of their brief to Counsel, meeting the client to take instructions, attending the conference with Counsel, taking instructions from any defence witnesses, obtaining any necessary experts' reports, liaising with court/client/cps etc.

Two professionals, putting in many hours of work each, across several weeks, or even months, for a combined total of £560ish between them.

A lawyer in private practice can charge up to £200 per hour. Legal aid lawyers can therefore get paid less than 3 hours of private practice work for two of them prepping a case for trial in the Crown Court.

Still think it's ridiculous?

ElleMcFearsome Wed 22-May-13 07:51:38

Signed. Thanks for the awareness raising.

ParsleyTheLioness Wed 22-May-13 07:57:04

Justice should be available to all. Not just those who can afford it.
Signed and Tweeted.

Headinbook Wed 22-May-13 07:58:37

Signed. Shared it a few days ago but will do it again. Thanks for pushing this. These changes are terrifying, and the spin re fat cat lawyers is distracting attention from what they mean for justice.

beeny Wed 22-May-13 07:59:31


justpaddling Wed 22-May-13 08:03:16

Signed and shared.

IsThatTrue Wed 22-May-13 08:06:07

Signed and bump

Lovecat Wed 22-May-13 08:07:31

signed and bump

Riddo Wed 22-May-13 08:11:58


EduCated Wed 22-May-13 08:12:33

Signed. This is one of those times where I feel so utterly useless but just don't know what to do!

Signed and shared

LineRunner Wed 22-May-13 08:21:21

Yes I have just signed this. Thanks.

greengoose Wed 22-May-13 08:27:52

Signed, but feel very powerless to actually change anything. There isn't enough public feeling to effect change.
I have gone from protest to signing petitions just to feel I have done something. What I know is it will do nothing except salve my soul slightly. Why is this government allowed to stand? Real people are really suffering. I am not proud of me or of us as a nation for allowing yet another form of predudice in action to take root.

CharlieUniformNovemberTango Wed 22-May-13 08:31:42

Signed and shared.

I'm frightened for the victims of domestic abuse. This will allow abusers to carry on their intimidation won't it. I know that abuse victims will still be able to apply for it but you need proof apparently. The very nature of some abuse means it will never have been disclosed over the years.

Just another way to keep the poor in their place.

People won't be able to fight wrongful disability claims etc at a time when ATOS are proven to be utterly useless.

To not even have the safety net of legal advice in a difficult time? Very scary.

Signed and shared. Words fail me regarding my fears about what the tories are doing to every aspect of our society in the guise of necessary cuts.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 08:55:57

I tried to read a thread on MN about 2 weeks ago about this.
I think, to the average man in the street, that a.they think it will never affect them and b.the whole thing is too complicated to understand. So I would say, try and keep the whole thing as simple as possible to understand.
Is there a large difference in abilities in solicitors, or whatever they are called?

AllThatGlistens Wed 22-May-13 08:56:48

Signed and shared.

MonstrousPippin Wed 22-May-13 08:59:43

Signed and shared too.

BumpingFuglies Wed 22-May-13 08:59:50

Signed and shared

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 09:03:29

What is chamber, what is counsel, who is Grayling, what is lapso. Talk of pay rates.
Also the subject heading is not indicative of what you are trying to say.

Posters on MN would care, and act I think, if this thread was written in much more laymans terms.

Not meaning to critizise at all.
Just pointing out that the average man in the street runs away from law related issues, as in the same way as say Maths at school.

babybarrister Wed 22-May-13 09:07:13

Thanks to those who are not lawyers and are doing something - the rest of you on MN numbering in the 100s of thousands should be ashamed of yourselves and don't come complaining on the legal threads when it all goes horribly wrong for you or your loved ones .

Remember, sometimes innocent people get wrongly charged .....

Rooble Wed 22-May-13 09:09:13

Signed and shared. Feeling increasingly depressed and increasingly powerless to do anything about our deteriorating sense of Society. I feel as though everything's crumbling around our ears.

ItsallisnowaFeegle Wed 22-May-13 09:11:30

I just feel extremely angry and frustrated about this and I agree it seems like a done deal.

This country is rapidly losing the Great in Great Britain. sad It's a capitalists playground.


Binkybix Wed 22-May-13 09:22:25

What happens when it reaches 15,000?

fleetwoodfox Wed 22-May-13 09:22:44

Thanks for the link babybarrister - have signed.

You are soooo right when you say people do NOT appreciate the monumental importance of this.

Binkybix Wed 22-May-13 09:23:35

The server keeps crashing when I try to load the actual consultation doc.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 09:24:20

You havent answered my post, so presumably you either dont get it, or care more about complaining about the cause, rather than the cause itself.
Am tempted to start another thread from a complete laymans perspective of the issue.

signed and shared

Ilikethebreeze I wouldn't worry about no response to your post yet. babybarrister may not be able to post at the moment, depending on her work.

anklebitersmum Wed 22-May-13 09:39:56

do these accused not get a court appointed representative then?

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Wed 22-May-13 09:40:07

I care passionately. Unfortunately I have it on good authority Chris Grayling has made the decision and is not for turning.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 09:45:14

Thanks for that Fry.
Perhaps you can answer part of a question.
You see, to a layman, lawyers, soilicitors etc are all, without exception, very bright.
So, to a layman, how can there possible be any incompetent ones?
I can see that possibily, just possibly, you may get the odd lazy one, but the rest are all extremely bright surely?
So, it doesnt really matter who you get to represent you?

Flobbadobs Wed 22-May-13 09:45:48

Signed, shared and bumped x


Osmiornica Wed 22-May-13 09:51:40


Being clever does not necessarily make you competent. Like in any job there are more and less competent people.

anklebitersmum Wed 22-May-13 09:53:19

If I may interject...I think the lack of oncern as regards these changes is largely due to the fact that as the victim you get Fred Bloggs allocated to you and get no input in the prosecution. So you essentially get a 'public purse solicitor'.

As the accused you can pop your hand in the public purse and choose who you want.

People don't see why the public defense isn't 'good enough' for the accused when a public prosecutor is good enough for the victim iyswim

littlepopsy Wed 22-May-13 09:54:55

It seems that we are going to end up with a justice system like the Americans. Think of all the films you have seen, where the accused dreads having the public defender attorney appointed and the whole family bankrupts itself to appoint a lawyer of their choice.

The government only seem to be able to propose legislation that benefits their friends, that is the top earning 1% of the country. The wider picture of a civilised society with a justice system for all does not seem to concern them.

Flobbadobs Wed 22-May-13 09:56:08

Ilikethebreeze I think the issue is that the accused may not get someone who specialises in their individual circumstances. There was a family in Breakfast this morning who used legal aid when the sons were wrongly accused of pulling a policeman off his horse during a tuition fees protest. They managed to secure a lawyer who specialised in cases relating to protests and proved that the boys were innocent.
If these changes go ahead someone in similar circumstances may get someone who specialises in a totally different area and may not be as knowledgeable in the smaller details. Which may led to massive miscarriages of justice.
If I've got that wrong someone will correct me grin

danceponydance Wed 22-May-13 09:56:58

The changes that are being proposed genuinely scare me. This blog Barrister's Wife gives some clear examples of how important it is to have access to legal representation in a way that will not be possible if these changes go ahead. I'm not a solicitor or barrister btw and I sincerely hope I am fortunate enough to be able to afford proper legal representation should I ever need it.

Ilikethebreeze Lawyers are people like any other person. It is possible to pass exams without actually being amazingly bright, if you work hard enough and memorize large chucks of stuff. And this is true in any number of professions. So yes, it is easy for me to believe that there could be incompetent legal people.

(I'm not a lawyer, solicitor or any other legal person, I'm glad I'm not, it's not my thing.)

CorrStagnitto Wed 22-May-13 10:00:13

signed and shared

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 10:04:49

First, its not just about being bright, it is about experience, capability, not being a total shambles (trust me there are in crim law as much as any profession).

It is also about the cost incentive and way of working. At moment crim barristers for defence mostly self employed, so they live and die on their reps. New system (in a nutshell) = advocates who are agents or major companies, bringing in same wage for that company if they have someone plead guilty in the police cell regardless of strength of case or if it goes to a week long trial. If your 19 year old son was arrested on suspicion of crim damage when all he'd done was be in the wrong place at the wrong time, how would you feel about his lawyer pushing him to take the guilty plea knowing that she couldn't really advise differently without getting in the shit at work for bringing down the profit margin?

Also, more bad defence= more appeals. Appeals by their nature involve more people getting off on technicalities. So say your rapist pleads not guilty and for the reasons above his advocates aren't putting as much effort in to trial as they are to getting people in the cells to plead guilty, they overlook serious questions with the dnaDNA evidence and court of appeal overturn conviction as unsafe because the jury couldnt have full regard to all the facts.

I'm not a lwayer but I know a bit abt the issue,just trying to explain how its not fat Oxbridge men in jaguars whinging about next years skiing holiday. Friends in the system work 80 hr weeks for less than 30k a year and defence is a vital part of keeping our society safe - from criminals, from bad police evidence, corrupt institutions etc.

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 10:08:17

Anklwbiters mum, prosecution can and do use private practice barristers but more for bigger cases. And they most certainly do when it comes to court of appeal. As does the goverment on wider public law issues - the barristers arguing FOR the deportation of Abu qatada are every bit as chosen by the goverment as the ones representing him have been by his team (not quite same area of law, just to illustrate the principle)

MumfordandDaughter Wed 22-May-13 10:18:08

Really scary. I was under the impression it was just family law (custody, contact with children, divorce etc) that Legal Aid was being withdrawn from.

anklebitersmum Wed 22-May-13 10:18:35

Correct me if I am wrong but aren't CPS and APS representatives bringing in the same wage regardless of caseload?
Just as likely to have people in their ranks who are equally uninterested in the prosecution results of what they consider minor cases?

dancing I just think that it's not 'the bigger cases' that the public at large worry's the criminal damage, minor assaults, robbery, burglary cases that are piddling in the greater legal scheme of things where they see the accused having better representation than they get. And 'getting off' because of it I might add.

Hence the apathy.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 10:21:40

Thank you for those explanations.
I can see[and understand!], that if you get someone who is not specialised then there would be a problem.
Also, that getting coporate anything is never a good idea for the customer.
Dont think I would agree that if you have done law that you are not necessarily bright enough sometimes, but that may well be the case for all I know.
fwiw, I know someone who is some sort of trainee, trying to get in, and am about to know more about another lawyer in London, who does work incredibly long hours - stupid hours quite frankly.

Will read more about the issue later when I have more time.

fleetwoodfox Wed 22-May-13 10:22:57


I understand it as follows (in VERY simple terms):-

If you are accused of a crime, your first contact will be with a solicitor. They are likely to instruct a barrister to speak in court on your behalf. Barristers are self-employed but work in chambers (e.g offices that they pay rent to for their office space and administration staff). Chris Grayling is the Sec of State for Justice and is proposing the changes to the Legal Aid system.

Currently, if you are accused of a crime, you can CHOOSE which solicitor and barrister you have confidence in to represent you in court to put forward your version of events. They are paid by reference to a pay scale based on the complexity of the case.

The proposals take away the element of choice. Under the new proposal you will be allocated the CHEAPEST solicitor and barrister. If you don't have confidence in whom you are allocated, the only alternative will be to pay privately (which most people will not be able to afford).

As many others have said, being a lawyer may mean you are academically clever. It is no guarantee of your communication skills, your people skills and your tactical skills.

Any criminal lawyers, please feel free to correct me!

crashdoll Wed 22-May-13 10:33:47

Under Article 6 of the ECHR, everyone has the right to a fair trial but none of this sounds very fair to me. Signed!

fleetwoodfox Wed 22-May-13 10:35:50

anklebiters mum - the CPS out-source any complicated cases so in theory, the victim (via the Crown) should be getting the same quality of legal input.

As you say though, many people would argue that the CPS is NOT providing the quality service to victims that it should. But, in a civilised society, is that really an argument as to why legal services to defendants should be reduced to the same level?!

I'm not a lawyer. But my DH is. And I have lost count of the number of our acquaintances that have contacted him because their liberty or livelihood is affected by a (minor) criminal charge being brought against them.

And it's only when YOU are in that position that you realise you NEED quality advice from someone experienced, who you have confidence in.
You would not want to be forced into pleading guilty, by a legal representative that you have no confidence in because they do not have the time or the inclination to fight your case properly (as they will not be paid for it)

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 10:35:52

Ankelbiter, thank you for responding. While the CPS are paid a wage, their pay structures are not incentivised around a race to the bottom/ guilty pleas and on to the next in the factory line in the same way that a private company, with shareholders (potentially), taking the same shilling for a half hour consult and a guilty plea or a two week trial are.

There are undoubtedly issues in how the CPS are managed, but even for your "run of the mill" cases it is not harrassed civil service half wit for the government Vs Rumpole of the Bailey. In practice, while the defendant might have some choice in representation this is probably equalled by the CPS allocation of staff according to strengths, workload etc. Equally, one of the things which gets a lot of defendants off in those smaller run of the mill cases is a lack of solid police evidence, suspects treated according to proper procedure etc. You can argue the rights and wrongs of how that aspect of the system works but two wrongs (weak prosecution case therefore weak defence team) do not make a right.

And nor does the wrong of Defendant X has parents with a decent pension and equity in their house, so they'll throw everything behind getting a solid defence team (if such things still exist in 5 years time) but Defendant Y is on the public shilling, well it was his choice to be in the kettle at that protest when someone standing near him stabbed that police horse in the leg so never mind that his lawyer told him to plead guilty and now he'll never work as a teacher or in a care home.

To stress, I am not a criminal lawyer and have no financial interest in the current system.

fleetwoodfox Wed 22-May-13 10:39:03

hear hear dancingwithmyselfandthecat

OrlaKiely Wed 22-May-13 10:40:27

Legal aid has already been stopped for family law cases.

Meerkatwhiskers Wed 22-May-13 10:42:11

I don't know a great deal about it but i know one of my best friends wouldn't have been able to go through her 3 year long and counting divorce and custody battle without it so signed and shared on facebook.

VikkiiKawaii Wed 22-May-13 10:44:49

Me and partner have both signed it. Will try posting it on facebook but not sure if there will be much difference - mainly eighteen-nineteen year olds on my facebook.

I have signed too.

I have had a browse through the consultation and I am concerned about the references to competative tendering, economies of scale even a reference to increased use of paralegals.

We aren't talking about the contract to empty bins or supply lightbulbs but rather people's human rights, their right to adequate representation. Access to justice shouldn't be about the cheapest option but rather the right representation for that individual.

For me this isn't about money, its about the nature of the society I live in and I do think a the right to appropriate representation no matter what your financial circumstances are like, is fundemental to a properly functioning justice system.

Nagoo Wed 22-May-13 10:54:18


Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 11:04:08

Thankyou for that fleetwoodfox. I think I understood it.

This may be another silly question.
Why is legal aid being dismantled? For every sort of case?
Because it is too costly?
And what are people who cannot pay left? Who is going to pay for even the incompetent barristers and solicitors?
Apologies if the information is already in this thread.

babybarrister Wed 22-May-13 11:07:39

let's just be clear that the Ministry of Justice have asid that it will be a "luxury" to have a queen's counsel representing you - what that means is that if for some reason you are accused of something really serious - murder or rape - you will have a lawyer but a very junior one. No-one who has any money will put up with this and historically anyone accused of those types of crimes has been entitled to the BEST lawyers, regardless of their means - is this really what you want?

in relation to the minor crimes, frankly it will be even worse - what you will get is people representing you who have minimal interest or training as they will be being paid absoluite peanuts. As has been said above, if it is you who picks up a conviction for shop lifting, it would be the end of any career involving handling of money as it shows dishonesty.

the legal threads are already full of people raising issues of family law as they cannot afford advice and there is no legal aid -


babybarrister Wed 22-May-13 11:08:22

am now off to demo outside Parliament !

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 11:09:15

Ilike, in brief because the govt sees it as acost saving. However, the cost saving is. Minimal and doesn't take account of potential greater costs further down the line eg miscarriages of justice. Also because denying rights to criminals is populist and lawyers don't get much public sympathy either - viz some comments on this thread.

anklebitersmum Wed 22-May-13 11:12:16

fleetwoodfox and dancing I absolutely agree that two wrongs don't make a right.

I also admit that if I were accused of something I hadn't done I would, indeed, want the very best represention possible. As I would as a victim not that I'd be entitled to it currently

I have seen a few Rumpole v's Muppet situations and it was not nice -either for the victims or the legal system.

Personally I think that we should be overhauling the A & CPS as a priority. Upping their standards and culpability would be a far better start than reducing rights in my humble opinion.

fleetwoodfox Wed 22-May-13 11:25:45

anklebitersmum -I agree that the CPS should be overhauled too BUT given that cost savings are driving all of this, I think this is hugely unlikely. So it is even more important that there should be a outstanding criminal defence institution to force the CPS to raise it's game.

Ilike - yes, cost is the issue. People who cannot pay will be allocated underpaid, underqualified legal representation who will encourage people (on a costs basis) to plead guilty rather than fight to clear their names. And the upshot is that there are likely to be a huge number of miscarriages of justice.

Gowaygoway Wed 22-May-13 11:27:15

Signed and shared

GoingGoingGoth Wed 22-May-13 11:31:17

Signed &shared

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 11:32:38

Ankle - I agree with you on upping the cps standards and culpability. But frankly what incentive will there be for that if Mr accused is being represented by Eddie stobart?

Part of the broader issue which you allude to is that actually prosecution represents society not the victim. As a general principle I think this is right. However, it does mean that the victims voice can be diminished - regardless of whether proseuction is a CPS lifer or a silk from a major criminal chambers. The guardian wrote an interesting article about this in respect of rape cases. Often it isn't in prosecutions interest to get in the way of a tough cross examination regardless of effect on the victim because if it convinces jury accused rapist is convicted and conviction less likely to be overturned. However, giving the rapist a junior lawyer not a silk doesn't mean cross examination will be better or less damaging - indeed it may be worse and more inept. I would personally argue for cases involving particular trauma we should allow the victim to have personal legal representation. I don't know the precise details but the family courts used to have if they don't still a system where a child going into care would be represented seperately from social services and the parents, and big public law cases often have intergenerational, so it isn't a totally unknown aspect of the system. But that is a wholly separate argument from criminal defence.

I have been a victim of a crime where the accused got off myself and yes it isn't a nice feeling. If you have experience of the area by all means start a campaign on it and I will support you but please don't let that think that failings in the prosecution system either justify or mandate the dismantlement of the defence system.

On phone, apols for typos.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 11:40:04

This is very serious isnt it?

The current legal aid bill must be huge, no idea how huge.
So what is going to be in its place.
The poorer in society are still going to have some sort of legal representation aren't they.

[still thinking I will probably start another more basic thread about this, when I understand better what I am talking about].
2 threads will be better than 1.

anklebitersmum Wed 22-May-13 11:46:14

dancing I don't believe we should be dismantling defence either I just think that the apathy surrounding this bill is largely because people do feel that the accused's rights are excessive compared to the victim's and see this bill as levelling the playing field.

It doesn't mean it's not a dangerous erosion of our legal system any more than just leaving the system alone means it's not in need of improvement smile


rooiewooie Wed 22-May-13 12:09:47

thanks for getting MN talking about this babybarrister

Ilikethebreeze, a basic thread would be a great idea. this article provides an 8 point summary

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 12:16:14

Yes, that link is good.
What is the difference between civil legal aid and criminal legal aid?
And still unsure what the new system is.
Is what is being proposed 1.a cut in legal aid, or 2.the complete dismantling of it or 3.a new system to replace it?

MoelFammau Wed 22-May-13 12:22:05

signed and posted on FB

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 12:29:36


Criminal legal aid is where you have been accused of a crime, easy way to think of it is something which could land you in prison eg murder, assualt, rape, mugging but sometimes community service and a fine are more appropriate for minor or first offences.

Civil legal aid is where there is a dispute where someone is in wrong but haven't committed a crime eg if you have been sacked for being pregnant your company may be fined but won't go to prison, custody battles over children, home repossessions etc.

Proposals are different for both systems. Civil legal aid has almost entirely been withdrawn unless you are imminently in danger of repossession. So if your ex husband won't let you see your kids, tough.

Crim legal aid as it stands is being withdrawn in favour of a system where companies tender for and are awarded contracts on the lowest price not quality, are paid the same for a guilty plea as a full trial and you don't get a qc (v experienced barrister) even if the crime is serious and the evidence is especially complicated.

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 12:30:43

So, in answer to your question what is being proposed constitutes a cut so great it amounts to a dismantling and the new system proposed purports to but will not replace it

JaxTellerIsAllMine Wed 22-May-13 12:34:56

Ive signed and Fb linked.

MyDarlingClementine Wed 22-May-13 12:38:35

signed thanks for link.

LimeLeaffLizard Wed 22-May-13 12:46:08


Well done for starting a thread. I had heard this might be coming, but would never have gotten round to signing the petition had I not seen it here.

ScrambledSmegs Wed 22-May-13 12:48:26

Thank you for the link. I'm not particularly sure how I missed the full story, but I'm so angry now.

I've signed and posted the link to FB. Bastard government, destroying everything good about this country.

TheFallenNinja Wed 22-May-13 12:56:25

Well, that's me put back in my box. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong.

infamouspoo Wed 22-May-13 13:11:07

signed. I think many dont care until it affects them, just like when the cuts to disabled people started 2 years ago. People didnt give a shiny shit. Then the cuts to those on benefits. Again no shiny shit given. Now these. Along with the cuts to the NHS.
Soon they will wake up and find everything they were used to gone. And it will be too late.

HibiscusIsland Wed 22-May-13 13:11:28

Roll on 7 May 2015 when we can vote this government out.

RenterNomad Wed 22-May-13 13:14:40

I fear this is already a neglected sector of law. I have a friend who qualified as a barrister a few years ago, and deliberately DIDN'T go into criminal law as the money was so crap.

I'll sign the petition, though! sad

Signed, emailed around and shared on Facebook and twitter grin

RenterNomad Wed 22-May-13 13:19:30


EldritchCleavage Wed 22-May-13 13:21:10

Already signed and shared on FB.

amicissimma Wed 22-May-13 13:21:17

The UK spends more on legal aid per capita than any other country in the world. 10 times that of France and Germany. In 2006 it cost £2 billion. (Source, Nesta - can't link, sorry).

What shall we cut instead? Assuming that making the 'rich b**s' and 'tax evaders' pay more won't cover everything.

SisterMonicaJoan Wed 22-May-13 13:47:50

Signed and shared on fb.

Thank you babybarrister

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 13:50:22

Amicisimma, I am no Labour supporting let's throw money at a problem and no cuts ever person myself. Where the money comes from is a significant issue.

Firstly, significant cuts (in fact equivalent to the govt's proposed ones) were proposed by the Law Society by cutting processes, reducing court bureaucracy etc (I can't link on my phone, but a quick google should find them). Secondly, the long term reduction of cost from the total legal aid cuts is not likely to be significant.

Thirdly, I don't know about Germany but France has a very different legal system. The system is "inquisitorial" rather than "adverserial": there are more judges, who are more closely involved in examination of the evidence etc. These costs are assumed into the civil service costs and consequently reduces their legal aid budget.

Fourthly, right to a fair trial is a crucial aspect of any civilised society and indeed is a proud English tradition, enshrined since the Magna Carta. Yes, find the cuts elsewhere. I don't want libraries to go, but I am happier living in a world where libraries are run by the community or funded by philanthropists, per one example, than where people accused of crimes are denied the actuality of right to a fair hearing and where police bodies and equivalent institutions don't have the incentive of shit-hot lawyers combing through their evidence to find fixes, ommissions and corruption.

As I have said above, I'm not a lawyer and I don't have a financial interest in that preference. I am, however, a former civil servant and I can tell you in one sentance what costs government (Labour and Tory hues) billions every year. Over-ambitious, insufficiently evidenced, badly thought through reform programs which promise world peace and no old lady dying in a hospital corridor or child leaving school without 5A*-Cs ever ever ever but don't start with the precise, boring and every day details which cause those problems and issues in the system to begin with. The Law Society addressed some of those regarding legal aid in their proposal. And were ignored.

Cherriesarelovely Wed 22-May-13 13:55:12

Signed and bump.

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 14:00:14

Renternomad, one of my best friends had to leave the criminal bar when she became pregnant with her first child. Even before she became pregnant she was dependent on her husband financially - by which I mean she couldn't provide a 50% share of the rent and bills for a one-bed flat in an unfashionable part of the South East and her train tickets (higher than for normal commuting - she had to go everywhere from Norfolk to Bournemouth). She was passionate and she'd worked extremely hard to get there. But 100 hour weeks (including the travel) and the stress put her health at a risk she didn't want to take for the baby and there was an office locally hiring for secretaries where she could take home more money and get paid on the same day every month.

BeCool Wed 22-May-13 14:04:47

signed, bumped and here is the link to the PETITION again

Orwellian Wed 22-May-13 14:07:52

Can I just ask why multimillionaires like Asil Nadir and other millionaire fraudsters are able to get legal aid? I never understood how they were able to get it when so many low paid workers aren't. Also will people like Abu Qatada and other terrorist suspects still be able to get it?

It definitely needs reform as it seems to be going to the wrong people at the moment but I don't agree with it being cut so much.

HerrenaLovesStarTrek Wed 22-May-13 14:11:06

Signed and shared

ilovexmastime Wed 22-May-13 14:15:54

Signed and shared. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

CleoBrown Wed 22-May-13 14:15:55

Signed, that's very scary.

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Wed 22-May-13 14:18:21

Orwellian you are right, it doesn't seem fair that multimillionaires can. Normally this is because their assets have been frozen or they have, shall we say, not proven to be paragons of honesty with those assets.

Abu Qatada is a slightly different case because his case is about human rights and deportation - he is not currently within the criminal justice system for having committed a crime in the UK. (Would that he were, he would be going to prison - once proven guilty - and this ongoing saga wouldn't be happening. I personally not only don't have a problem with terrorist suspects getting legal aid but am a big supporter of it. Hearings can very often be closed, meaning that the suspect won't be allowed access to the evidence and his advocate can only discuss it with him to a limited extent, making it even more important. Also, viz. Binyam Mohommed and the Welsh bloke who was put under a control order (virtual house arrest) because a relative called a hotline when they were drunk, UK security agencies very often get stuff wrong and need to be kept under close scrutiny for everybody's safety.

CelticPromise Wed 22-May-13 14:54:54

Criminal legal aid is now means tested so that those people shouldn't get legal aid. However what happens in the crown court is that they are granted it and then have to pay it back.

What is frustrating as a practitioner ( thankfully very part time these days) is that as a solicitor you are quite rightly held to very high professional standards, and in the current environment it is harder and harder to maintain them while making a living. My firm are one of the good ones but have had to make people redundant because they can't meet the wage bill. I'd rather give up the work than advise a guilty plea because it's the same fee as a trial, but some won't, and what kind of lawyers will continue to practise?

Client choice also helps with efficiency- if a client knows you and trusts you they are more likely to accept advice that is difficult to hear! And they get arrested frequently- what is going to happen if someone is arrested three times in a week and is allocated a different provider for each case?

If anyone is interested, I was paid about £16k as a trainee ( after a required postgraduate course that I funded myself), about £25k newly qualified, and £35k as a duty solicitor in London. Not princely considering the responsibility, and it's much worse for the junior bar. Top commercial firms pay their trainees £35k.

NightLark Wed 22-May-13 15:35:29

Signed. Thank you for the thread.

Osmiornica Wed 22-May-13 17:07:28


Pigsmummy Wed 22-May-13 17:11:05

Could I have the link to the petition please? Haven't found it in last three pages!

Susandeath Wed 22-May-13 17:23:57


Smudging Wed 22-May-13 17:30:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RichardMiller Wed 22-May-13 18:55:18

Hi all,

I am the Head of Legal Aid at the Law Society. Our press team told me about this debate. I would like to pick up on a few points. It will probably be easiest to do so over a number of messages. I want to comment on the overall budget, international comparisons, the value of client choice, and the economics of what is proposed.

To start with the overall budget, the criminal legal aid budget is £1 billion a year. It is expected to drop to £941 million this year because of fee cuts in 2011 and dropping numbers of cases.

That sum is out of total Government expenditure of just under £700 billion. To put it in context, under the previous Government, the annual INCREASE in the health budget was over three times the total annual legal aid budget for civil and criminal work combined. We really are talking margin of error stuff here in the public finances, but with a devastating impact on society as a whole.

RichardMiller Wed 22-May-13 18:59:27

International comparisons: the Government is very keen to say we spend more than every other country. One country they have specifically compared us with is New Zealand. The problem with that is that New Zealand does not have the volume of terrorism, serious fraud and major drug cases that we have. Moreover the density of our population means that the nature and severity of crimes here tends to be greater.

Chris Grayling also compared us with France. France has an inquisitorial legal system, under which the judge conducts all the enquiries and the lawyers for the parties have a very limited role. We have an adversarial system where the full burden falls on the prosecution and defence teams.

So the only way to make a comparison is to look at the cost of the criminal justice systems as a whole. This is what two researchers called Bowles and Perry did for the Ministry of Justice about four years ago. Their figures showed that we prosecute two and a half times as many people as France, but our system only costs one and a half times as much. On a per case basis, our approach is way more efficient and cost-effective.

beatricequimby Wed 22-May-13 19:05:50


RichardMiller Wed 22-May-13 19:09:33

Value of client choice: client choice is not just about giving something to the defendant. It is also about what works best for victims, witnesses and the taxpayer.

If a client is advised by a trusted lawyer to make admissions in the police station, or to plead guilty, they are much more likely to do so than if they are given the same advice by someone who has been foisted on them against their will by the system. This means the police have to spend more time investigation, there will be more contested trials with consequent cost in the Court system, and witnesses and victims will be more likely to have to go through the stress of giving evidence.

It also makes defence work cheaper for the taxpayer. If the lawyer already knows the client, they can do the case quicker and more cheaply than if they have to start each case from scratch and get the client's full history from them.

There is also a legal problem for the Government in trying to remove client choice. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 guarantees client choice in criminal proceedings. There is a clause that allows for exceptions, but only in "prescribed circumstances". The Government is not allowed, as it is trying to do here, to prescribe ALL circumstances as not having the right.

And there is a political problem. This Government is committed to user choice in public services as being unequivocally a good thing. It was therefore quite shocking when Chris Grayling said at the weekend that "I don’t believe that most people who find themselves in our criminal justice system are great connoisseurs of legal skills." Well, Mr Grayling, I don't think I or many of the rest of us are great connoisseurs of medical skills, but you still believe in choice there. So I think that is a pretty pathetic argument for departing from your underlying political philosophy.

JaxTellerIsAllMine Wed 22-May-13 19:12:11

Thank you Richard Miller for some very informative posts.

IncrediblePhatTheInnkeepersCat Wed 22-May-13 19:18:15

Signed and shared.

RichardMiller Wed 22-May-13 19:18:49

The economics of what is proposed: in a nutshell, the model in the consultation paper proposes a whole different way of delivering services. The combination of requiring bidders to deliver services across a whole criminal justice area (usually a county, sometimes two, such as Devon and Cornwall) combined with the massive cut in fees means that the only way to operate will be a single office in the area, and a load of freelancers covering courts and police stations. The local high street firm will not be there any more. The entirety of what currently exists will be swept away.

And even starting from a blank sheet of paper and working on the cheapest basis we can think of, our calculations are that it may not be possible to provide the service the Government is proposing at the rates they are offering. Initial findings suggest that in some areas the results will be a six figure loss in each of the three years of the contract. These are early days and the figures are still being finessed, but it is difficult to see them switching from something so completely impossible to something that works.

babybarrister Wed 22-May-13 19:22:34

Dear Richard,

Can I just suggest next time to have a demo on a weekend as many, many people who wanted to attend were of course court!


CelticPromise Wed 22-May-13 19:31:16

Thankyou Richard for providing all this info, very helpful.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 22-May-13 19:44:32

Thank you dancing for answering my question upthread.
Will now read the other posts.


ilovexmastime Wed 22-May-13 20:13:12

Thanks Richard, that's helped a lot.

pesta Wed 22-May-13 20:16:29

Signed. Another disgusting 'hang 'em high' policy being rammed through by Tories. Thank you to Richard Miller.

Whatwhatwhat Wed 22-May-13 20:34:03

Can the title of this be changed to indicate what this is about? These changes ae devastating - not just to legal people but to every single citizen.
Every single signature to the petition counts.

Whatwhatwhat Wed 22-May-13 20:38:05

Is this the same petition

Whatwhatwhat Wed 22-May-13 20:38:38
RichardMiller Wed 22-May-13 20:46:22

Glad to be of help. I have been impressed with the high quality of the debate on here, and thank you all for your support for the petition.

In reply to Baby Barrister, it was the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association that organised the event. I take your point, although I think weekends also have their difficulties, in that for many legal aid lawyers, that would entail giving up the very limited time when they actually see their families. One approach is never going to work for everyone.

CelticPromise Wed 22-May-13 20:48:30

what that's a different one, started before 38 degrees got involved. Feel free to sign both!

ConstantCraving Wed 22-May-13 20:54:25


EglantinePrice Wed 22-May-13 21:11:44

Signed and bumped.

danceponydance Wed 22-May-13 21:27:12

Signed the second petition and shared it as well.

Signed and shared.

Yet another reason why I avoid the news at the moment. But I shouldn't really, as I miss important things like this.


danceponydance Thu 23-May-13 07:29:52


Ilikethebreeze Thu 23-May-13 07:46:13

I tried to follow the points of RichardMiller, thankyou. Cant say I really understood them all, but thankyou anyway.

The bit I am still trying to grasp before I attept to start a duplicate thread, is the money side of things.
Mr Miller said that the criminal legal aid budget is going to be cut from £1000million to £941million.
So does that mean that there still is criminal legal aid for 94% of cases?

So the petition is about the missing 6% of legal aid?

And for the civil bit, I am guessing that about 4% is being cut, so about 96% of cases will still be able to get legal aid?

kungfupannda Thu 23-May-13 07:50:57

No, the legal aid budget referred to is in the current system.

The proposals will change the system altogether. It is about funding the lawyers to provide the legal aid, not whether people get legal aid at all.

It is about budgeting enough that people can actually provide a good quality service, without placing the financial survival of law firms in direct competition with their clients' best interests.

CelticPromise Thu 23-May-13 07:58:07

Ilike those figures are the current budget. The figure of £941m is the expected cost for this year after cuts that have already been made and an overall reduction in the number of cases. I don't know what the expected figure is if the reforms go ahead. The campaign is against the idea of price competitive tendering which will completely change the way defence lawyers work, remove choice for clients and create a conflict of interest for lawyers trying to act in defendants' best interests because any not guilty plea will create massive amounts of work for no extra money. I believe that the professional bodies are looking at other ideas of how savings can be made without price competitive tendering, but as has been said above we are a competitively priced service, profit margins are tiny and there is doubt about whether it is possible to provide the service at the cost proposed. The government says that the highest bid it will accept is 17.5% lower than current fees.

Re civil, I'm no expert, but I understand that the reforms have already been made which effectively take whole areas of law outside of legal aid, leaving those who can't pay no access to justice.

Ilikethebreeze Thu 23-May-13 09:14:18

I thought this thread was about legal aid getting cut to clients, "getting decimated" as babybarrister put it.
But it is about payments and procedures getting altered in a bad way, on the lawyer side of things - for criminal law.

But on the civil side of things, yes, the proposed legal aid changes will also involve many cases where legal aid will no longer be available.

Have I got that right, finally, now? grin

I've been thinking about this since yesterday. With the number of legal professionals and other people involved in the legal profession, why isn't there more noise about this? Is there a large p proportion of those people who think this is a good thing?

I say this as a member of a profession with small numbers but who have a close association with medics. There are enough medics (as in numbers) to basically mean that they win everything or pretty much everything they oppose. In my small numbers profession we fail to oppose anything (there are other reasons but this is acknowledged #1 reason).

With the number of potentially affected people, why isn't there a bigger critical mass of disaffection within the profession?

Hope this makes sense.

I've signed.

fleetwoodfox Thu 23-May-13 09:46:00

My understanding is that so few solictors/barristers even do criminal legally aided work now, because the fees have been eroded for so long now that it is no longer profitable for them to do so. So, the vast majority of the legal profession will not be affected by these cuts.

Ilike - the issue is that the proposed cost cuts will affect people's access to justice when they are accused of a crime. Instead of a system where an accused has a choice of who represents them, they will be given the governments appointed, cheapest legal defence. This is very likely to be substandard as it is no longer cost effective for professional, experienced qualified lawyers to provide this advice on legal aid. Only the wealthy will have any choice of lawyer, as they will pay for it privately. This is obviously manifestly unfair.

fleetwoodfox Thu 23-May-13 09:58:57

I think there is public (and commercial lawyer) apathy about this is because people don't understand or realise how the current system works, as most people (fortunately!) don't have any experience of it. People don't realise that the state is proposing to be both prosecutor and defender with these new reforms.

That's why it's so important to prevent these changes happening - if they are introduced people will only realise what a monumental step backwards our legal system has taken when they, or a loved one, are accused of a crime and are provided with a woefully inadequate state defence lawyer who has no interest (on a costs basis) in doing anything other than persuading an accused to plead guilty at the first available instance.

CelticPromise Thu 23-May-13 10:11:19

Criminal defence solicitors oppose this en masse. There was a protest yesterday. Unfortunately the government has no fear of pissing us off, whereas they might with doctors for example. The public is also hard to get on side because of endless press about fat cat lawyers getting criminals off.


nellieellie Thu 23-May-13 10:44:06


I like
One of the worrying proposals in the consultation is to introduce bulk competative tendering for defence work. So large organisations will but in bids to offer defence representation in criminal cases and will be selected on price not quality.

My understanding is that there will be a flat fee whether or not the case settles early because you plead guilty or it goes to a full trial. So there is an economic incentive for the firms to get the cases disposed of quickly so there is a concern that there may be tendency to encourage guilty pleas in more borderline cases.

One aspect of this bulk tendering is that you will no longer have the choice of a specialist in the specific area of criminal law selected by you but rather will have someone allocated from the bulk providers selected by the government.

The consequences of a criminal conviction, even a minor one, can be lifechanging and it is a fundemental part of this society that people have the right to a proper defence when accused of a crime.

LadyMaiBlossom Thu 23-May-13 11:19:16

Signed and shared.

babybarrister Thu 23-May-13 11:44:36

Ilikethe breeze - the devil is in detail:

1. re civil legal aid - the cuts have ALREADY been made -the 4% cut is a further cut ..... It is a black and white issue that in relation to civil legal aid it has been decimiated - there now is no legal aid for the vast majority of civil cases - fact. The family courts are full of litigants in person who desperately need some sensible legal advice to help them set aside their emotions and anger and move on with their lives post separation - sadly the reality is that there will be many physical fights in court and the bill for security for the judges will need to increase - this is already happening - just ask a family judge!!!

2. re criminal legal aid - there are a number of issues which have been pointed out in the thread in detail. Fewer people will be eligible and the quality will drop like a stone. The difficulty you may have is undertsanding exactly why the lawyers are saying that the quality will be affected - sometimes it is very difficult to put into exact words the tiny nuances of how a profession works and actually what will happen on the ground, but let me give you some pointers of why this will happen:

a. there will be huge pressure to get people to plead guilty as there is one fee per case - so better for those "greedy fat cats" only to go along for one hearing ....

b. your case will not actually be prepared by a lawyer - a bit like the new NHS telephone line which employs ex beauticians and plumbers with 10 weeks training

c. anyone who is good and is able to do some other type of law is bailing out of criminal law NOW - now this won't affect me as a lawyer as if I or one of my family gets charged with an offence, I am "in the know" about who to go to - it certainly will affect the whole of the general public though as they will have no choice of a lawyer and will also have someone from a pool of the less able, less experienced and less interested ....

d. most really good junior lawyers will now not opt to do any type of training involving criminal law as they will know it will lead to a badly paid job - this means that the next generation of criminal lawyers will be of a much lower quality

Richard Miller, Kungfupanda and others have set out further details.

I chose the tiltle deliberately as sadly there have been various threads metioning legal aid cuts in the last few weeks which have attracted about 60 posts in total - mainly from lawyers asking why no-one is interested!

EglantinePrice Thu 23-May-13 13:24:56

Fleetwoodfox I think you are spot on with this

I think there is public (and commercial lawyer) apathy about this is because people don't understand or realise how the current system works

Its not an area I know anything about. Hopefully I'll never need to but by the sounds of it, those who do suddenly find themselves in need will be in a mess.

There is the temptation to think 'this wont affect me'. But that is the attitude the government is relying on with its divisive policies.

meglet Thu 23-May-13 13:38:37

Bookmarking to read on the laptop and sign later.

RichardMiller Thu 23-May-13 13:40:05

To Theidsalright - there are two key reasons. First, most people can never imagine themselves needing a criminal defence lawyer, until it happens. Alfie Meadows' mother, the couple who shot and killed a burglar, many people involved in fatal road accidents, never imagined they would ever need a lawyer - until they did.

Secondly, it is very easy for the Government just to talk dishonestly about fat cats to shut the debate down; and very difficult for lawyers to explain the complex reasons why the changes are so bad.

However, there are two key messages that I think summarise the concerns: taking away anyone's right to choose their lawyer is a bad idea; and competitive tendering for public services has never in the history of history led to a better deal for taxpayers or higher quality.

One of the astonishing things this time round is that we have had a couple of sympathetic articles in the Express, of all places. If the Government has become too extreme for the Express, you really have to worry!

specialsubject Thu 23-May-13 13:41:03

signed. I don't plan to commit a crime but that doesn't mean I might not need legal aid. Or that plenty of other good people won't.

RichardMiller Thu 23-May-13 13:47:08

To Ilikethebreeze - Under the current arrangements, the criminal legal aid bill is dropping, partly because of fee cuts brought in a couple of years ago (that is how much in arrears defence lawyers are paid!) and partly because the number of cases is dropping.

What is now proposed is to slash the budget by a further amount of nearly 25% by bringing in these proposals. Part of the change is to make people with household income greater than £37,500 ineligible for legal aid in the Crown Court. But most of it is this proposal for competitive tendering. That will not lead directly to clients being excluded from getting services, but in practice there is a real fear that it will do so, and that the quality of what is on offer will be much less than at present.

In theory, you could still have competitive tendering but end up with the same good quality firms having the work. In practice, that is economically impossible with this model. The only way the model in the consultation could work is to take legal aid out of the hands of independent high street firms around the country and hand it to the likes of Eddie Stobart, G4S and Capita. Given what G4S did with something as relatively straightforward as Olympic security, given what Capita has failed to do with interpreters in the Courts, this is an almost guaranteed disaster.

EglantinePrice Thu 23-May-13 15:44:09

Can someone clarify my understanding of this.

Sorry for being so slow, this is all totally unfamiliar to me.

Under the current system you are granted legal aid and find yourself a lawyer. Under the new system you will be allocated a lawyer (no choice)

That lawyer will work for a firm that has tendered to provide x amount of hours?/consultations? and won the tender.

If you don't like the lawyer what will happen? If the lawyer isn't very good but has already won the contract they still get the work. There is a huge incentive for the lawyer to get you to plead guilty.

fleetwoodfox Thu 23-May-13 16:10:34

Eglantine - my understanding is that under the new proposals you would have to pay for a lawyer to defend you if your household income is over £37k.

If not, you get allocated a lawyer who has won the government contract for that local area. They have won the contract on the basis that they will deal with each case for £x (eg the winner of the contract will be the lowest priced tenderer). The law firm will get the same fee if you fight a 4 month trial or plead guilty at the first hearing. So it will be in your lawyers interest for you to plead guilty at the earliest hearing as they get the same fee for doing much less work!

Hence the real concern that there will be a significant number of miscarriages of justice!

fleetwoodfox Thu 23-May-13 16:13:59

And yes, if you feel the lawyer that you have been given is too inexperienced, is incompetent, doesn't listen to you or advise you well then you will have no option of changing unless you pay privately (the cost of this is likely to mean it is not an option to anyone other than the extremely wealthy)

RichardMiller Thu 23-May-13 17:02:47


Yes, you have understood exactly correctly. I suspect your doubt is caused by the fact that it sounds dreadful. Sadly, it is as dreadful as it sounds and it is what has been proposed.

Whatwhatwhat Thu 23-May-13 19:19:34

It's difficult to I,whine what incentive will remain to provide any sort of decent service.

Whatwhatwhat Thu 23-May-13 19:19:45

I meant to imagine.

OhDearNigel Thu 23-May-13 19:21:44

I'm not worried about it. The cuts have fucked affected CPS so badly that the defendants could probably be represented by a GCSE student and still get off.

EglantinePrice Thu 23-May-13 20:15:48

Thanks Fleetwood and Richard. Not doubt I just want to be sure I understand the basics before I mention it to anyone else.

Does all this happen when someone is arrested or charged?

OhDearNigel Thu 23-May-13 20:28:58

"Can I just ask why multimillionaires like Asil Nadir and other millionaire fraudsters are able to get legal aid?"

All defendants in a Crown Court case have an automatic entitlement to legal aid; defendants at Mags are means tested. That's why

beeny Thu 23-May-13 20:50:41


CelticPromise Thu 23-May-13 21:14:15

Eglantine both. Everyone is entitled to have a solicitor at the police station, once it gets to court you have to apply for legal aid. The changes will apply to police station and court work.

RichardMiller Thu 23-May-13 21:14:47

And in response to OhDearNigel, where a rich person gets legal aid for a Crown Court case, they are required to pay a significant contribution, often covering the whole cost of the case.

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 23-May-13 21:24:35

Hello all

Just in case you missed it, we had a guest blog from a criminal barrister about the impact of these changes on cases involving domestic abuse or sexual violence, over here.

OhDearNigel Thu 23-May-13 22:04:12

I did not realise that Richard - what is the "richness threshold" for means testing @ Crown kick in then ?

I work in a joint police/CPS witness care unit, have worked in this field of policing since 2008 and have slowly seen our justice system crumbling. Obviously I only see the prosecution side of it - which is collapsing. Our CPS cannot deal with the enormous amount of work that it carries, to the point that cases are being discontinued or dismissed because CPS have not had the time to deliver routine disclosure, one of the most basic of their functions. Despite being critically understaffed they recently made another 5 experienced, senior Crown Advocates redundant - despite the fact that they were already having to outsource Magistrates prosecuting work to chambers rather than in-house prosecutors. Cases are being reviewed 2 or 3 days before trial. Memos and further evidence routinely go unanswered. The knock on effect for victims and witnesses is that cases are discontinued or postponed because the CPS aren't trial ready

The courts are so far behind in their caseloads that cases are being vacated several times, even at Crown. One on my caseload has been in a warned list 6 times and has just been vacated for the 7th time because of the overload for our Crown Court Centre. It's a racially aggravated, priority crime. In a couple of weeks we have 8 trials due to be heard in one slot at one of our Mags courts - so 7 of the 8 trials will be postponed again. This has a significant effect on whether witnesses will go through with it and also leaves defendants hanging for another 3-4 months. I am currently issuing court warning letters at Magistrates for November/December this year. I don't doubt that the January 2014 trials aren't far off.

The Tories are dismantling the legal process as we know it. I have grave concerns for the future of the Criminal Justice System

danceponydance Thu 23-May-13 22:48:31

I've signed both petitions and I'm also planning to write to my MP, is there anything else that can be done to help?

donttrythisathome Thu 23-May-13 22:54:39


MrsMcEnroe Thu 23-May-13 23:20:24

Signed & shared

Collaborate Fri 24-May-13 00:35:45

Have a look as well at this excellent synopsis and website set up by the brilliant Clive Baker, a Liverpool family law barrister.

Contains a great summary of the proposed changes.

fleetwoodfox Fri 24-May-13 09:35:01

Excellent link thanks Collaborate.
Will email my MP this weekend.

babybarrister Fri 24-May-13 22:17:12

the consultation ends on 4th June so it is very important to write in before then

KateMumsnet - it was frankly as a result of the apathy of one million MNers towards that blog that I wrote this AIBU in the way I did - sadly the general public are sleep walking into disaster because it is an issue which seems more distant than cuts to the NHS or closure of A &E ....

RichardMiller Fri 24-May-13 22:42:37

To OhDearNigel - there is a quite complicated means test which is carried out at the start of a case. To be honest, I am not sure exactly where the contributions start to kick in, but for the life of the case, contributions are payable based on your income. Then, if you are convicted, a further calculation is done based on your capital, including savings, bank accounts and equity in your home, and you will be asked to repay a sum up to the balance of the outstanding costs out of any capital you have.

Merle Sat 25-May-13 00:00:28

What OhDearNigel says is an accurate description of what is going on. It is a disgrace. The Tories used to be the party of law and order. Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.

rooiewooie Sat 25-May-13 11:02:01

Legal aid cuts: what price justice? Informative article in the Guardian today

I've signed

danceponydance Sat 25-May-13 13:58:44

I've shared the guardian article on FB with links to the two petitions again.

Leonas Sat 25-May-13 18:44:49

My DP qualified for legal aid a few years ago for a criminal case and, although looking back we feel his lawyer did not possibly do the best job they could have, he was immensely grateful for the legal aid as the case caused him to lose his job and he therefore could not have paid a lawyer. It is terrifying that someone could end up losing everything to defend themselves in court as happens in the USA, for example.

Merle Sat 25-May-13 18:48:04

I see that as at today the e-petition is over £60k. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel in that we will get our debate in parliament.

Merle Sat 25-May-13 19:08:29

But if anyone is at a loose end on a Saturday night could I ask that you read this thread and consider signing.

babybarrister Sat 25-May-13 19:12:51

come on all of you apathetic MNers .... - just remember one day you might need a decent defence lawyer

Dementedhousewife Sat 25-May-13 19:40:27

Signed and shared both petitions.

Snazzywaitingforsummer Sat 25-May-13 20:54:32

I've signed both and shared 38 Degrees; will share the other one with a little gap.

Merle Sat 25-May-13 21:46:18

bumping in the name of justice.

HerrenaLovesStarTrek Sat 25-May-13 22:15:23

Bump bump.

LineRunner Sat 25-May-13 22:17:30

Absolutely OP.

SanityClause Sat 25-May-13 22:20:05

Signed and bumped!

Merle Sun 26-May-13 08:06:16

Sunday morning bump.

Niceteeth Sun 26-May-13 08:41:01


TwllBach Sun 26-May-13 08:41:45

Marking my place to sign when I'm on my desktop.

Ilikethebreeze Sun 26-May-13 08:49:42

I have started a thread about this, as I said I would, to try and get more signatures.
But I cant answer their questions! blush

Lougle has kindly started to help.

JulesJules Sun 26-May-13 08:52:47

Signed - over 60,000 signatures now, well done OP

Ilikethebreeze Sun 26-May-13 12:53:59

I am not sure if my new thread has made things better or worse. Sorry op. blush

hottiebottie Sun 26-May-13 14:03:14

ILTB - this needs as much coverage as possible! Hope you don't mind if I repeat a few points here that I made in the other thread.

The scariest thing about these proposals by far is that they can be foisted on the country merely on the say-so of the Lord Chancellor, who clearly doesn't have a clue about how the legal system works. It's secondary legislation so doesn't have to be discussed in parliament.
If you think such an important and far-reaching change is at least worthy of discussion and should not simply be railroaded through on a whim, please sign this petition, already mentioned above but linked here again: It's already on over 60,000 signatures and needs 100,000 for a parliamentary debate.

I should add that I am not a lawyer, nor am I married to one, nor am I related to any lawyers, nor have I ever had need of one apart from house conveyancing and the occasional insurance claim dispute. I do, however, care about maintaining access to justice for all, and am extremely concerned about how our essential services are being sold off bit-by-bit to the lowest bidder, usually corporate megaliths with names like G4S, Capita, Serco, etc. etc., whose loyalty is not to those they are supposed to serve, but to their shareholders. These names crop up again and again, as they continue to be offered government contracts despite inadequate or downright shoddy performance on previous occasions.

Merle Sun 26-May-13 16:38:34

I know hottiebottie it is astounding. I was looking at a consultation document re. the sentencing of environmental offences (pollution, waste tips etc). The consultation period for that little area of law is the same as the so-called consultation for the future of our system of justice.

I've decided that if this is properly debated and our MPs decide that this is what we want for our country, then so be it. I don't believe the debate will allow the changes to take place, because it makes no sense in a civilised society which is signed up to the European convention on human rights.

beeny Sun 26-May-13 21:48:39


breadandbutterfly Sun 26-May-13 21:58:48


SkiBumMum Sun 26-May-13 22:04:46

Signed and shared. Bump!

beeny Mon 27-May-13 07:08:39



rooiewooie Mon 27-May-13 12:02:45


hottiebottie Mon 27-May-13 16:41:21

Here's the rather pathetic response from the MoJ. See if you can spot the embarrassing typo! grin

EglantinePrice Mon 27-May-13 17:28:22
Merle Mon 27-May-13 18:15:07

Nearly 61,500 now, so gradually increasing.

rooiewooie Tue 28-May-13 08:16:55

Only just seen this...signed and shared on FB and other forums I go on.

FitzgeraldProtagonist Tue 28-May-13 13:22:15

It is disgusting. I have accessed the profession as a victim, I have used Civil legal aid. I am also a defence solicitor. I got £14k when training. Worked up to £35k after 10 years of experience. I can't get a job. I am freelancing. I am in a rural area, there isn't the budget. I can't get a job that covers the childcare. I have lost my career because of government cuts. I am heartbroken. My dear friend who is 15 years call is also leaving. We are able and experienced but simply can't afford to work in the profession we believe in and have passionately pursued for so long.

I am now reliant on the state whilst I try desperately to make ends meet with bits of freelancing, admin jobs and eBaying.

The LSC set quality standards that are entirely right, but are solicitors are not remunerated in order to be able to meet them.

Cuts will result in self representing defendants. Aside from the obvious injustice, lay defendants can hold up proceedings as there is no 'shorthand', court clerks provide legal advice to self reppers. They proceed on principal rather than what is legally correct.

Public defender type solicitors would not necessarily be terrible, but the kind of workload they would need to manage to make a profit means an inevitable knock on effect on quality. Not so at the CPS, who can outsource and have a brilliant pay/benefits/career scheme.

Am just off to trawl the internet for alternative careers. I haven't even managed to repay my student loan from 2000.

beeny Tue 28-May-13 21:20:00


Merle Wed 29-May-13 07:01:19

Fitzgerald sorry to hear that. As things stand this area of work is not a viable career choice for young people.

CPS are very poor on trial prep, and getting worse. Many prosecutions fail because of it. That's bad enough.

A colleague of mine contacted Stobart's Law, to see what their terms were. There is a flat fee. If the barrister wants any trial prep - witness statements taking, witnesses organised for court, expert evidence, this comes out of the flat fee.

Horrendous conflict of interest and the direct result will be wrongful convictions.

Spero Wed 29-May-13 10:09:21

This from a criminal barrister is appalling. I had no idea it was so bad for the junior criminal bar.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 29-May-13 10:27:31

Can you resend so we can click please Spero

Spero Wed 29-May-13 10:35:42

I have responded directly to the consultation as well as signing the the petitions.

You can respond here

Deadline for responses is Tuesday 4th at midnight.

ukfirestorm Wed 29-May-13 13:45:02

Its an awful attack going for legal aid, though tbh the way that we train barristers, solicitors etc (i.e. statistically predominately from a non representative part of society) and the idea of magistrates generally is also a problem imo.

ukfirestorm Wed 29-May-13 13:45:25

Will sign petition though.

Spero Wed 29-May-13 14:09:57

Barristers in crime and family are NOT statistically from one 'type' of people. We are much more likely to be female or from minority ethnic groups. This is one of the criticisms of the government's proposals - they will strike much harder against groups who aren't white upper middle class men.

But this is why the government will succeed - no one gives a shit because they assume barristers are just rich posh blokes.

ukfirestorm Wed 29-May-13 14:17:04

That may be true, but not true that barristers are not still predominantly from priveledged backgrounds, how much are the annual course fees? How many of the people that train are not public school educated overall for example (comapred to the number of people that are public school educated in society generally).
the people that suffer from this policy are the vulnerable people that get no representation, although I would also argue that they are disadvantaged generally by the archaic and unrepresentative system we still have once they get represented.

ukfirestorm Wed 29-May-13 14:19:11

In any case I didnt mean to distract from the issue, which I agree is important.

Spero Wed 29-May-13 16:19:47

I got a bursary otherwise I would have been massively in debt for years due to fees for further qualifications. Most people at junior bar now are on their knees with debt, unless they come from privileged backgrounds.

I don't think this is a distraction but really the heart of the issue. By paying criminal barristers peanuts and now pushing for 'competitive price tendering' so that Tescos will end up running the criminal defence system, the gov is driving further wedge between rich and poor - rich people will pay for relaxed well qualified barristers of their choice, poor people will have no choice but to put up with whoever Tescos can persuade to work for minimum wage to maximise profit.

Chunderella Wed 29-May-13 17:35:27

Legal aid solicitors and barristers are disproportionately likely to be female and non-white, both compared to the rest of the legal profession and the population as a whole. I myself am a solicitor from a working class background, driven out of legal aid because my sector was collapsing. I too was the beneficiary of a bursary, as part of a scheme which has now ended.

beeny Wed 29-May-13 18:05:18


Merle Wed 29-May-13 19:20:24

nearly 66,000 on the e-petition.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 29-May-13 19:59:42

Does it need the 100,000. And by June 4th?
But what about the other petition going?

Merle Wed 29-May-13 20:30:42

The 'consultation' ends June 4th. Whereupon the MOJ say they will consider our responses. They can do what they want. General signs are that they will do so, unless challenged.

The petition closes in October. If there are 100,000 signatures then there may be a referral to a parliamentary committee, for them to examine the proposals. This would be a cross-bench committee, I think.

If the petition is high numbers, but not 100,000, then I think the government would be foolish to ignore the strength of public feeling, but they probably will.

The 38 degrees petition runs alongside the other. The Bar Council (our union) decided to use them as well, as they have been previously successful at attracting signatures etc.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 29-May-13 20:39:56

The other petition is on 41968 so in total they are more than the 100,000

danceponydance Wed 29-May-13 21:25:02


VerlaineChasedRimbauds Wed 29-May-13 21:28:30

Thanks for starting this thread. I have signed and shared. I hope others will too.

beeny Wed 29-May-13 21:42:11


enw Wed 29-May-13 21:47:51

Bump. Please sign and share the e petition. Doing nothing is not an option. This proposed reform will shred the criminal justice system and there is no Plan B.

somepeople2013 Wed 29-May-13 21:55:32

Signed - I actually can't believe this! I used to work in the courts (Court clerk in family courts and Crown) and am just in shock.

I left just before they cut the legal aid for family cases, I thought that was bad enough.....


They have to consider each response to the consultation otherwise I think they are at risk of a Judicial Review. So the more responses to the consultation the longer it takes for them to be processed. They can't act until the responses have been assessed. I know it doesn't guarantee that they will take any notice of what I expect will be an overwhelmingly negative response to the proposals but it will slow them down and make it more awkward to pretend there is any support for what they are suggesting.

The more people can act by signing a petition, writing to their MP or answering some of the consultation questions the better.

enw Wed 29-May-13 22:12:57

For those asking what more can be done, please sign the e petition at

Please write and/or meet with your MP to express your concerns. Ask them to sign up to the Early Day Motion

The Justice committee have decided to take some evidence on this issue on 11th June. Please e mail them with your concerns. I have copied and pasted parts of the request I received today:-

The Justice Select Committee are beginning to express concern about the MOJ proposals. It has been suggested that we contact members directly and we urge you to do so. We have been advised that the contact should be as follows:

"You should put your concerns in the email - No attachments

The concerns should be short and concise - They will not be read if it takes the reader more than 2 minutes

Below are the e.mail addresses of all the members of the Select Committee
Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP (Chair)Liberal Democrat:<>
Steve Brine MP, Conservative:<>
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour:<>
Rehman Chishti MP, Conservative:<>
Nick de Bois MP, Conservative<>
Gareth Johnson MP, Conservative<>
Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru:<>
Seema Malhotra MP, Labour:<>
Andy McDonald MP, Labour:<>
Yasmin Qureshi MP, Labour:<>
Graham Stringer MP, Labour:<>
Mike Weatherley MP, Conservative:<>

Sorry such a long post. This stuff really, really matters to all of us

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Wed 29-May-13 22:24:01

"most really good junior lawyers will now not opt to do any type of training involving criminal law as they will know it will lead to a badly paid job - this means that the next generation of criminal lawyers will be of a much lower quality"
This is not new. I graduated from Cambridge in a group of 13 lawyers 20 years ago. Only 2 of us went to the criminal bar. we have both since left for more remunerative work.

floreatsalopia Wed 29-May-13 22:45:10

Signed and shared.

I am with the criminal law professionals in being aghast at this completely unnecessary and frightening privatisation. It is similar to the awful proposals for the supervision of offenders by imbeciles like G4S instead of a proven, trusted, professional and most of all, accountable public sector organisation.

I wholeheartedly agree with what RichardMiller said further up thread about the privatisation of public services never having been proven to be cost effective or beneficial.

I could weep at the destruction of our public sector by this hideous government. 2015 cannot come soon enough.

OK - I've emailed the select committee members and forwarded the email to my MP with a request that they sign the Early Day Motion.

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 08:41:09

Exactly the same problem with psychiatry, gps, journalism, investment banking/any career where you have the potential to earn massive amounts later in your career, people in general prohibited financially unless they come from privileged backgrounds, and like the earlier poster noted in a skewed way from particular moneyed ethinic backgrounds which does nothing to change the system.
For me the issue is the people that can no longer get represented due to this change, not really sympathy for barristers.
Especially as I have been on many mental health tribunals where the client has been represented utterly incompetantly. I think these professions in general and the way they are still formed in this way is part of the problem, it suits this government that these professions are full of the only people that can afford to take a punt on a low salary in the hope of more money in the future, and can afford the cost of training/to train elsewhere then come to the uk, thats the nature of this lot we have elected.
If we had a proper representative legal system, and it wasnt a club for sloanes, full of out of touch customs, and dinner parties, barristers showing off (note the stories of barristers getting song titeles in clising summaries) then it would be easier to stick up for this profession, especially in climate where it seems ok to bash those professions that actually save lives or educate our children, or safeguard the most vulnerable in society: nurses, teacher social workers, now those professions are properly underpaid, even after years.

I understand your concern about the make up of the legal profession but these reforms will not improve the situation. These reforms involve reducing competition and introduction of State selected bulk providers. This will drive the smaller firms / junior barristers who can't diversify or have family support to fall back on out of business. I strongly suspect that the very people who will be driven out of the profession will be the people who already struggle to join it.

Trazzletoes Thu 30-May-13 11:27:19

ukfirestorm we get it. You don't like lawyers.

By the way, in general people who work in Legal Aid whether civil or criminal do it NOT in the hope that they will get a better paid job somewhere along the line... We do it because we care passionately about helping those who generally need it most. The most vulnerable people in society. If you want to think we are all in it for the money, go ahead but I have worked in various legal aid areas for 9 years now and have never met ANYONE practising who is just holding out for a switch to something more lucrative. EVERY single person I know who works in these areas does it to help those who are unable to help themselves.

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 12:13:39

I don't dislike lawyers, I have friends that are barristers, it's just the system I think is broken, and I i dont think it often helps the vulnerable, I m sure there are lots of people practising that have laudable intention, I totally agree these reforms will worsen the already bad situation, and agree with chaz that it make things much worse.
Since the money started drying up in legal aid I have seen the quality drop when people are represented, and I think it is disgusting that more people will not get represented at all because of these changes, the fact that legal processes cost so much, and preclude so many is my point, and I think it is made worse by the system profiting from the costs generated, don't even get me started on people claiming compensation for whiplash.
Apologies for any offence caused.

Spero Thu 30-May-13 12:25:47

I got a very good degree from a good London University - I could have been earning six figures as a commercial lawyer and be BORED out of my brain.

I want to work with people. I find my work endlessly fascinating and I do my best to help my clients. I take enormous umbrage at any suggestion that those of us who do legal aid work are just biding time to jump ship to a more lucrative area of work.

That is rubbish on so many levels. Law divides roughly into areas where you deal with people or where you deal with organisations, taxes etc. The latter is very dull and very highly paid. The former is interesting, vital to society and not so well paid.

But we are not in it for the money. Nor could we jump ship at a later date. I have spent ten years as a family lawyer, I am not fit for anything else.

This debate is about who you want representing the most vulnerable and damaged members of society. Those of us who are committed and interested or someone who scraped a third class law degree and will work for Stobarts/Tesco because it is just about a step up from MacDonalds.

Don't please turn this into 'class war' - barristers from upper crust backgrounds tend not to go anywhere near crime or family unless they are representing footballers' wives or Russian oligarchs. I would say 90% of the work at the coal face is done by people like me. Not particularly privileged, either got lucky in terms of busaries or who have taken on massive, massive debt to train.

Spero Thu 30-May-13 13:07:57

sorry if this has already been posted, but its quite good.

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 13:33:28

Fair points Spero, and quite informative, thanks, consider me educated, and I agree with you that you want people who are committed etc, and you do seem to represent that, My point, which probably was sweeping, and unfair, was really that the legal system generally lends itself to this sort of problem, if it was less archaic, it would be harder to do things like removing legal aid as more people would understand the issue, and mor eimportantly would even care about it. Because it is so alien to the vast majority, becuase most people probably wouldnt know a barrister from a lawyer, most people will not care that this is being done, as people would not understand what it means.
I probably spend too much time in court, and that probably informs my predjudice. My own profession is probably just as guilty of being difficult to fathom from outside so equally open to dismantling, along with the rest of the public sector.

Spero Thu 30-May-13 13:43:06

I agree with you that the processes need urgent reform and THAT is where the savings can be made - lets have more and better use of technology so I can get an interpreter at the end of my ipad, not travelling hundreds of miles to get to court and then waiting around.

Lets have more experts via video link so we don't have to get everyone travelling to the same place at great cost and fuss. Have criminal cases ready to go, no constant adjournments because CPS can't get case ready.

Improve inter agency co-operation so I don't have to wait 3 months to get police or GP disclosure, when all they need to do is print something off and bloody send it to me.

we do urgently need to make efficient changes, but diluting the quality of advocates in an adversarial system is a demonstrably false economy.

beeny Thu 30-May-13 14:19:55

Well said Spero

Goal Thu 30-May-13 14:28:47

Ukfirestorm - on average the teachers I know earn more than the criminal barristers and solicitors. Given the post grad costs of becoming a barrister or solicitor it is not at all well remunerated. Just out of interest what do you think a legal aid criminal lawyer with say 10 years post qualification experience in London earns?

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 15:48:21

I guess what I am saying is part of the problem is that there are such huge costs to train Goal. anyway I have hijacked the thread enough, and I agree with the policy being a wrong one.
Loath as I am to quote an article in the DM (shudder) on what I would guess the average salary is....

"Earnings from legal aid among barristers are now such that one in every 30 of Britain’s 15,000 barristers earns more than David Cameron’s annual £142,500, figures showed yesterday."

The figures, from the Ministry of Justice in a written answer to Tory MP Stewart Jackson, show that 463 barristers each earned more than £150,000 from legal aid in the financial year to April 2010.

Another 100 are likely to have made between that figure and Mr Cameron’s £142,500.
Just for balance:

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 15:53:57

All that is by the by though, and I am sorry for bleating on about it.
the important thing is what is going on to the people who need to use Legal aid to get a chance, who now won't, anecdotally I work with clients who might have challenged decisions taken over their care who now will not due to these changes.

Goal Thu 30-May-13 16:10:51

That is an indication of how poorly informed most people are. I have many many friends working in the field and they, after approx ten years experience, are on between 35 and 50k. They are a mixture of barristers and solicitors. A tiny group of QCs earn a large amount. Some very experienced seniors will earn similar but the average criminal barrister or solicitor is nowhere near that. There are lots and lots of head teachers earning 100k plus, doesn't mean that the majority of teachers are on that sort of salary.

ZillionChocolate Thu 30-May-13 16:52:47

It's a bit like thinking Mr Tumble's doing well for himself and is representative of the clown you might book for your child's 6th birthday party round the local community centre.

alicetrefusis Thu 30-May-13 17:32:26

signed. Also linking again to this excelllent blog someone else mentioned upthread( apologies I can't find your original message to mention your name):

alicetrefusis Thu 30-May-13 17:32:50

Oh bog it hasn't worked -do google and read it tho. Very good.

Spero Thu 30-May-13 17:44:25

I was called to the Bar in 1994. I have specialised in family law for over ten years so I am a 'senior junior'. For the past five years my earnings have been pretty static. I bill just under £100k a year. From that I pay £1,500 per month to my Chambers. I then have about £10k per year to find for professional expenses - insurance, data protection, suits, books, training courses etc. I then pay tax and national insurance

. I am left with a profit of £45-50k per year which I accept is not at all bad but factor in when I am doing a trial I will spend up to 20 hours preparing, be in court from 10-4, another 2-3 hours every evening going over evidence and travelling up to three hours if my case is in Plymouth or Portsmouth. I need to find child care to cover the 5.30am starts and the 9pm finishes.

I get no pension, no sick pay and no maternity leave. If I don't work I don't get paid. I don't know anyone who earns £142k. What the gov are prone to do is forget that it can take up to two years to get paid as a barrister. So one year you might do very well but the year before you got very little. I was nearly bankrupt last year as in Nov I was paid £280 and in December £89.50.

My earnings will not rise. They will now be cut. But I am living like the Queen compared to a junior solicitor or barrister on criminal legal aid.

I left the criminal bar when, after travelling an hour to make a bail application, once I had paid my train fare and got my client a crunchie and a pack of cigs I lost money for that day.

Interestingly he was allowed the cigs but not the crunchie as chocolate wasn't on his prison's list of approved food. So I had the crunchie. Every cloud eh.

IvanaCake Thu 30-May-13 18:22:40

Signed and shared on fb and Twitter.

Words cannot describe how much I loathe our current government.

alicetrefusis Thu 30-May-13 19:46:15


alicetrefusis Thu 30-May-13 19:47:17

Thanks Chasz grin

Trazzletoes Thu 30-May-13 20:10:10

As a legal aid solicitor (albeit specialising in civil matters) I am 7 years pqe and get paid (if I worked full time, which I don't as I have 2 young children) considerably less than 30k. Binmen round here get a lot more than me. I would like to suggest that my job requires more skill... I paid my own way through law school thanks to a post-grad studies loan that I then had to pay off while receiving the now defunct law society minimum wage for trainees.

I know a lot of barristers. Not one of them makes anything like the figures quoted, or would even dream of making that much on legal aid. And just because a handful manage it, it does NOT mean that everyone is inflating bills and that the legal aid budget is too great and everyone is overpaid. If you had any idea of the angst when the LSC does an audit, or decides whether your file counts as an exceptional case, ie. one where you can get paid for the work you have actually done rather than £300 odd...

I am sick and tired of being accused of fleecing people, of the assumption that I must be mega-rich just because I work in the legal sector.

I bloody love my job and its a good job I do because I sure as hell am not in it for the riches.

Trazzletoes Thu 30-May-13 20:11:06

Ps. I know I still earn a good wage! But the vast majority of us are not on 6 figure salaries. Which is the point I was trying to make.

Chunderella Thu 30-May-13 20:30:25

"Earnings from legal aid among barristers are now such that one in every 30 of Britain’s 15,000 barristers earns more than David Cameron’s annual £142,500, figures showed yesterday"

They seem to have worded that quite cleverly. Are they saying all the 1 in 10 barristers who earn more than 142k are doing so from legal aid? If so, that's bollocks. There are some very wealthy barristers doing corporate stuff who don't touch legal aid because it's not related to their specialism at all.

As for the earnings limit thing, I'm ok with that provided we have a reciprocal arrangement where cabinet ministers earn the same salary as the average legal aid lawyer. I no longer do legal aid, but when I did I never earned more than 21k. Admittedly that's in the north and I'm only 2 years PQE, but it's hardly a handsome salary. And I graduated from Oxford in 2005, right in the middle of the boom, when people with my educational qualifications could pretty much pick and choose their jobs. I don't say this to show off, just to point out that I could've earned 4 times as much as I was doing if I'd chosen a different path. You don't go into this field for the money!

rooiewooie Thu 30-May-13 21:13:30
kungfupannda Thu 30-May-13 21:31:37

One in thirty? That's what, about 3.5% of the profession earning over £150,000. If that's the best the DM can come up with to perpetuate the fat cat lawyer myth, we might just get somewhere!

Another one here a bit bemused by the idea that I became a legal aid lawyer for the money! I am over 10 years qualified. I am a duty solicitor and a high court advocate. I was a partner at my old firm before going part-time after DS2 - mainly because full-time jobs are pretty thin on the ground right now. I now earn the part-time equivalent of £35,000, ie £20,000. The highest I ever earned was £36,000 while a partner at a small London firm.

Realistically, I will never earn more than this and I now top up my income with freelance writing.

BlueyDragon Thu 30-May-13 21:49:40

The 15,000 figure refers to the entire bar, per the article ukfirestorm refers to, not just those doing publicly funded work. That means the 1 in 30 figure is distorted by those doing privately funded work that doesn't attract legal aid. Even if the 1 in 30 figure was referring to public funded work only, that would mean the top 0.3% earning the top slice. I think I'm right to say that for the population as a whole, it's around 1 or 2 % who are the top earners. So the portion of the publicly funded Bar that was earning top money would still be less than the population as a whole.

But this isn't about how much barristers or solictors earn, really. This is about the fact that in the face of the worst that the State can throw at you - and whatever the DM might say about how cushy prison is, you really don't want to be there - you should have someone by your side who can properly represent you, with your interests and the interests of justice at the heart of what they are doing. Not whoever is cheapest.

Try this blog if you want to find out what the reality is for the junior end of the criminal Bar

BlueyDragon Thu 30-May-13 21:57:11

Oops, I can do law but can't do maths - kungfupannda is correct on the numbers - it is 3% not 0.3%. So the top slice of the profession as a whole, not just publicly funded barristers, is earning more than David Cameron. Not including his Central London residence, Chequers, ability to claim expenses and his pension.

Doesn't change the point though - do you want the cheapest justice system, or one that affords everyone, you included, proper representation if you ever need it?

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 22:02:01

Was not suggesting that individuals are fleecing people, hope thats clear moreover that our current legal system is exclusive by virtue of it's costs, its traditions, and its structure, and that leads people to be alienated from it, and by it. Incidentally though I much prefer doing my job than being a bin man, but if you want to start dean despit6e my having a Masters, a pg dip and 8 years experience in my profession (and still earning full time less than 30k) I would be happy if they were paid more or as much as I could not get up day after day and do what they do, I love my job, and am am lucky to be able to do it. they get paid in reality way less though.
and for balance
I am sorry to have upset folk, I was merely highlighting that the current legal system lends itself to this type of attack, I also think you'd much more likely garner mass support by focussing on the people that miss out rather than lawyers.

ukfirestorm Thu 30-May-13 22:14:17

glad to have learned some bits from this, and have signed.

Trazzletoes Thu 30-May-13 22:18:35

firestorm it was you who focused on the lawyers, we were just responding to the points you raised.

Of course it is about the vulnerable in society and how these proposals will lead to a VERY bad deal for them. How many times do we have to keep saying that the reason we do this job in the first place is to help the vulnerable, those who are unable to stand up for their own rights. Those who have been put upon for whatever reason; to uphold their rights.

Spero Thu 30-May-13 22:29:54

I completely agree, the focus should not be on lawyers pay packets.

Trouble is, this is exactly how the government has pitched the debate - it can justify dismantling an entire system because the only ones that benefit are the fat cat lawyers.

This is untrue on so many levels but it plays nicely to the lazy stereotype that all lawyers are rich arrogant tossers.

Believe me, there is much more diversity amongst legal aid practitioners than Cameron's cabinet.

ukfirestorm Fri 31-May-13 08:24:51

Agreed, but if this all goes through, the only people that will afford to undertake the role will be the sort of people in the cabinet, and I wasnt trying to focus on lawyers but the legal system (albeit in my clumsy way) that I think already is exclusive, that's not the fault of individual lawyers but a structural one, this policy will entrench that, and worsen things for the sort of people already alienated from the legal system.

It's the same argument around magistrates, if you make a job expenses only you get only one type of person that can afford it overwhelmingly, although this will not be the case on an individual anecdotal basis.
If it is the government that has pitched the debate in this way then you are right that it is contemptible, but then look at the way they roll out teachfirst in teaching, and how they plan to implant the same programme in social work, how they have dismantled probation (which I actually think is the most digusting thing to happen in the public sector I can remember)the assumption being that only certain strata of society do things properly. The tricky thing in those cases is any protest by those professions is as unlikely to garner public support because in a similar way those professions are perceived in a negative way. Can you imagine a stand up for social work campaign gaining support?

I am an AMHP, and I think it is disgusting that less people I detain will be able to challenge me on a legal basis for my decisions, and application of the law, for which I am personally as well as professionally liable or will be able to have representation at tribunal due to this change, and those things are supposed to protect liverty and safeguard the process, it's almost as if this government doesnt care.

Spero Fri 31-May-13 08:29:30

Rich upper class white men will NEVER EVER touch the ghetto legal aid practices. They will go into daddy's bank or Cameron's cabinet.

The only people who will touch this are those who think they can make a profit by hiring cheap people who ordinarily wouldn't have had a sniff of a training contract - bad degrees from bad universities. I used lecture and tutor in law and believe me there are thousands and thousands out there - they can barely write, spelling and grammar both atrocious. They are unlikely to be able to cope with complex trials, they will lean on clients to plead.

ukfirestorm Fri 31-May-13 08:39:49

If that is the case, thats even worse, do you think thats what the likely outcome would be?

Spero Fri 31-May-13 11:38:51

I was told in 1994, don't go into family law, it's a female ghetto. That has turned out to be absolutely true, often the only men in court with me are the judge and the father.

I don't know about crime but I suspect it is similar story.

You don't go into these areas to make money, hence they are perceived as low status by the higher earning lawyers.

In 1997 I almost got a job with the CPS to help train lesser qualified advocates in public speaking so they could conduct the less serious trials. I don't think that scheme got off the ground.

I predict what will happen is what I saw when working on asylum cases - the Home Office Presenting Officers (hopos) were often of appalling quality. Many did not speak English as a first language and their accents and poor grasp of spoken English made it difficult for me to understand what they were saying. The arguments presented on behalf of the Home Office were often gibberish, betraying fundamental lack of understanding of even basic principals of law.

This is what will happen. It is easy to get a law degree from some dodgy place.

Merle Fri 31-May-13 21:56:44

e-petition now up to 70,000!

Anyone reading this please consider signing. It is important that MPs from all political parties scrutnitise this pathetic proposals.

I write as someone who spent all of yesterday responding to the bloody consultation.

rooiewooie Fri 31-May-13 22:54:39

I'm doing my inarticulate lay person's response tomorrow Merle!

Bumping up

Please sign the petitions and if you can answer some of the consultation questions. Email your MP if you have time.

babybarrister Sat 01-Jun-13 17:35:46

consultation ends on June 4th!!


beeny Sat 01-Jun-13 22:30:14


Catmint Sun 02-Jun-13 08:46:08

Am happy to sign and share. Shame that most civil legal aid has already gone. Too late for the debt and welfare benefits legal aid contracts, many of which were let to not for profit agencies such as CAB.

Catmint Sun 02-Jun-13 08:56:13

I'm devastated that most civil legal aid was scrapped from April. It seemed to happen so silently and smoothly, without protest from most of society. Access to the law for thousands upon thousands of people, just wiped out.

There were campaigns, I joined them. They didn't work.

I don't want the same thing to happen to criminal legal aid.

Ps any legal practitioners reading this who do pro bono - you are great, please keep doing it, we need you!

Here is the text of an email I received from the Justice Select Committee. Please keep the pressure on it looks like it might be helping.

"Thank you for your e-mail concerning the Government’s consultation on Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system. The Committee has received a substantial number of representations expressing concern about the proposals in the consultation paper, especially those relating to price competitive tendering, and has announced that it will hold an oral evidence session on the subject at Westminster on Tuesday 11 June. Further details are available here: ."

enw Sun 02-Jun-13 13:19:18


Please sign and share the e petition so that there is some chance of this proposal being debated in Parliament.

Please e mail your MP and/or Justice Committee if you are able.

The survival of our criminal justice system is at risk and well worth fighting for.

enw Sun 02-Jun-13 14:13:44


Please sign and share the e petition so that these proposals have a chance of being scrutinised in a Parliamentary debate

E mail your MP and/ or the justice committee if you have time.

Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 36.

IfNotNowThenWhen Sun 02-Jun-13 14:25:09


beeny Sun 02-Jun-13 14:29:53


rooiewooie Sun 02-Jun-13 16:04:01


Still working on my personal response to the consultation...

smokeybacon Sun 02-Jun-13 16:53:25

I want to thank Babybarrister for starting this thread and each one of you who has signed the e petition. I am a criminal legal aid lawyer and have been for 20 years. I am incensed by Grayling and his recommendations. And his dishonesty. Blatant dishonesty as evidenced in his Telegraph interview today.
Keep signing and sharing, people!

beeny Sun 02-Jun-13 18:01:27



Spero Sun 02-Jun-13 21:14:31

If anyone is in London on June 4th the Association of Lawyers for Children is organising a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice from 4.30 to 7.30.

102 Petty France SW1H 9AJ, nearest tube St James Park.

It would be great if there were more than just lawyers there.

nennypops Sun 02-Jun-13 23:36:51

Reposting the petition link -

Pleeeeeease sign. Grayling is trying to destroy the justice system, and is trying to ensure that the government cannot be challenged when it is acting unlawfully. Don't let him.

Bakingtins Mon 03-Jun-13 05:59:52

Signed and bumped.

babybarrister Mon 03-Jun-13 11:08:49

the government petition is only up to 72,000 - it needs to be 100,000 to be debated in Parliament

in addition please DO spend 10 minutes filling in the online consultation and remember, when you do, that the "facts" in support of the consultation have been spun hugely ....

Gov petition signed!

SisterMonicaJoan Mon 03-Jun-13 12:16:58

Already signed the petition when relatively new but have now answered the questionnaire

AnnaFiveTowns Mon 03-Jun-13 14:31:36



babybarrister Mon 03-Jun-13 21:50:55

the residence qualification will have a dreadful impact on any cases of stranded spouses - this is where a wife is brought to the UK, her immigration status is not finalised and she is then dumped back in her home country with no UK immigration status or means of returning to the UK.

I have done one such case in which my client did not see her children for 6 years but eventually managed to return and to be reunited with her children - under the proposals she simply would not have been eligible for legal aid ....

mummywantsaliedown Mon 03-Jun-13 22:43:12

Signed, shared, bump.

norkmonster Mon 03-Jun-13 22:49:32

Bumping this one - having voted Conservative all my life, well since coming over here (from my local state school in Northern Ireland) to do a law degree anyway, I cannot tell you how sickened I am with the approach they have taken with this, the NHS, the probation service and everything else. I wish someone could explain to me how putting services out to private tender is more cost effective than keeping them in public control when the basic premise of private tender must be that there is enough cream on top to generate a handsome profit.

I cannot work out whether Grayling is simply massively incompetent or dishonest, to be frank. His current comments on the earnings limit - “The changes to entitlement to legal aid are really designed only to affect people earning £100,000-a-year or more,” a quote attributed to Mr Grayling by the Telegraph does not sit with the consultation document which states at paragraph 3.27 the threshold is a disposable household (ie joint) income of £37,500 or more. So if you are both working, then provided your individual income is £18750 after tax, national insurance, council tax, and your share of "housing and childcare costs" (although how they are to be calculated is anyone's guess - perhaps allowances on the basis of the deemed housing benefit amount?) and the weighted annual living allowance - a tremendously generous £5,676 for everything else, transport, food, drinks, household goods, services etc you are screwed.

Doing the calculations if you (eg) have paid off your mortgage and have no childcare fees, as a result of your children being older or managing your work around each other so you don't need to use childcare, you will be ineligible for legal aid at the grand gross income level of around £29,000.

Earning £100,000 a year or more - really??? Does he actually believe what he is saying, does he just not understand it or is it a much more cynical and deliberate attempt to obfuscate?

danceponydance Mon 03-Jun-13 23:09:32

Bumping. Consultation completed - not sure I entirely understood it but hoping I've made my point anyway.

danceponydance Mon 03-Jun-13 23:44:10

Emails sent to the Justice Select committee and my local MP too. I sincerely hope that these changes do not go ahead but I fear that the Government just doesn't care what anyone else thinks.

beeny Tue 04-Jun-13 07:39:38


It's finally made it to the NBC


Thanks iPhone!

tattyteddy Tue 04-Jun-13 07:57:10

Signed and shared on Facebook. I feel worried the way the country is heading!

danceponydance Tue 04-Jun-13 09:19:49

Response received from one of the justice select committee members to my email from last night:
Thank you for your e-mail concerning the Government’s consultation on Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system. The Committee has received a substantial number of representations expressing concern about the proposals in the consultation paper, especially those relating to price competitive tendering, and has announced that it will hold an oral evidence session on the subject at Westminster on Tuesday 11 June. Further details are available here:

danceponydance Tue 04-Jun-13 09:25:46

He also suggested lobbying my mp which I had already done last night and I included a request for my MP to sign the early day motion.

Interestingly, when I looked at the details of the early day motion the majority of the signatories were Labour MPs and i don't recall seeing any Conservative MPs having signed it. My MP is a Conservative so I'm not holding much hope that he will sign it.

Have signed both and FB linked y' day, better late than never.
I wonder why anyone is surprised about this affecting the legal profession now. The government has been doing exactly the same to the medical profession/ NHS for years- the whole shebang, systematic misrepresentation of earnings, putting GPsurgeries out tender, putting GP out of hours out to tender to the lowest bidder ( GP surgery run by Boots anyone? We have one down the road! ). And then blaming doctors if things are not working well. To achieve yet more privatisation and low cost tendering, because someone running a surgery for profit must be doing it better, right? Wrong. So so wrong. Because how could someone have money left over for dividend, if they are purporting to do the same complex work for less money in the first place, without cutting corners?
So yes, I've seen it in my own profession. We really need to fight this, the eroding of all that is valuable in this country.
Many GPs and law practitioners will leave their profession (already are) and loose the country a huge amount of education expenses. Many of my colleagues are leaving the country.
We are heading for a disaster. (Steps off soap box...)

danceponydance Tue 04-Jun-13 17:22:40


bjknight Tue 04-Jun-13 18:11:50

I thought I'd try for a big bump on this thread. Apologies where some of the same ground is covered but it seems to me that mothers and women in general have cause for concern about these proposals.

In short, Lord Chancellor and career politician, Chris Grayling is attempting to use his delegated powers of secondary legislation to destroy criminal Legal Aid as we know it.

Grayling is determined to mislead the public in relation to how much legal aid costs the public, how much lawyers earn and the true value of the Criminal Justice System.

Woman are particularly vulnerable under his plans. Often, women seeking assistance from criminal lawyers are doing so because they have been put into horrendous positions by men in their lives; whether they are forced to act as drug mules, whether they are forced to retract or vary evidence when they have had the courage to report domestic violence or for any other reason, these women need to be able to choose a solicitor (and barrister where needed) who they can trust, who knows them from previous matters or who has particular expertise in the field. Grayling proposes to remove this right to choose.

Moreover, more often than not, it is mothers who are roped into the Criminal Justice System when there is an allegation against their child. Children deserve to be represented in just as careful and professional a manner as adults - in reality, more so as there is often their good character at stake.

Grayling will, unless stopped, remove the right for these mothers and children to go to a solicitor's firm that is nearby and who they know by reputation. Instead, they will have to travel to other ends of cities or, in rural areas, whole other towns and cities, just to get advice and assistance. These mothers and children will have to do the leg-work because the new providers Grayling is courting will not have the motivation to do so nor the inclination to do so.

Who are these new providers? So far, Grayling has acknowledged having been in contact with G4S (the company who lose prisoners in vans and who brought you the Olympics security scandal), Tesco (who have been prosecuted recently for price-fixing) and Stobart (yes, the lorry people whose legal director and CEO are both facing a civil trial for contempt leading to a man being imprisoned). What have these companies got in common? They know nothing about criminal defence work. They know nothing of the level of professional standards required to do what criminal lawyers do. They are, in short, the wrong people for the job.

Lawyers earn bucket-loads of money apparently. That's according to Grayling. Chancery, commercial and some civil lawyers certainly do. The taxpayer is not paying for them though. Those are big businesses picking up their tabs.

Criminal lawyers earn much less than people know. For somebody who has undertaken the years of training and worked hard to pay for their qualifications, the earnings are already cut to the bone. Debt is paid off so slowly that many are now turning away from considering working in this highly valuable and highly skilled area of work. As is often the case, it is the women with aspirations to criminal law that are suffering first. The debts and risks in terms of being self-employed at the Bar with such uncertainty and such little protection in terms of earnings are simply too much for many outstanding potential female lawyers.

If you cannot feel sorry for lawyers and still believe Grayling's nonsense figures, consider this: over 70% of Crown prosecutions in England and Wales are conducted by members of the self-employed Bar. Their Independence and higher levels of expertise and experience are why the Crown Prosecution Service chooses them over their in-house staff so frequently. That, plus the ONS finds every year that the Bar represents excellent value for money for the taxpayer.

In light of all of these considerations, would your members and followers online please consider joining more than 70,000 others in signing this epetition to stop Grayling in his tracks and force the House of Commons to subject his outrageous plans to proper, evidence-led, parliamentary scrutiny?

The petition is here:

Thank you for your time.

Benjamin Knight
Central Chambers, Manchester

beeny Tue 04-Jun-13 21:10:12



norkmonster Wed 05-Jun-13 00:04:43

And another bump.

nennypops Wed 05-Jun-13 01:15:23

Bump and another link to the petition address - Please sign it. These proposals have the potential to destroy our justice system, and are also blatantly designed to make it almost impossible to hold the government and other public authorities to account through the courts.

nennypops Wed 05-Jun-13 01:17:15

Sorry, link doesn't seem to have come out right - trying again:

rooiewooie Wed 05-Jun-13 10:01:28


With a reminder not to take at first glance the figures printed in Daily Fail today, as if anyone would...

MNBlackpoolandFylde Wed 05-Jun-13 10:30:34

Can I ask in simple terms because I am not up on this at all.
Basically if I was arrested and could not afford a solicitor instead of being able to go to any that offered legal aid you will have to go to certain government approved ones?

Is that what it means?

It means that you will not be able to select the solicitor that is an expert in your particular offence. Additionally, as has been pointed out by senior people in the profession, if you have a specific disability that might be relevant to the offence you will not be able to select a lawyer with specialist knowledge of that disability.

It bothers me that the State will prosecute you and under the new proposal will also allocate you a defence lawyer.

Sorry posted to soon

Yes that is what it means and more.
The lawyer you get allocated will be from a bulk provider chosen by the Government based on price. They will be paid a fixed fee whether the case settles early through a guilty plea or goes to full trial so they have an economic interest in seeing the case settled quickly, this may lead to pressure on vulnerable people to plead guilty.

higgle Wed 05-Jun-13 11:34:38

I was a criminal defence solicitor for nearly 25 years. I have mixed feelings about the cuts. On the one hand there are certainly going to be injustices. It is not just the big cases where people's lives are affected when things go wrong. I can think of numerous cases my colleagues and I dealt with where careful preparation, putting a bit of extra time and effort in clearly revealed that life changing allegations of theft and assault were simply not made out - sometimes we were able to get compensation but usually it was about safeguarding someone's livelihood and family.

The present levels of remuneration for criminal defence work are very low, I have worked off that I now earn more working in the care sector than I would if I had carried on in my old career ( and that is saying something!)

On the other hand I have also seen solicitors play the system for financial reward, letting cases run to get them into the next pay bracket, hanging about when waiting was paid and farming their police station work out to clerks who might have been qualified but were not much good. As with every profession there is the unscrupulous element.

Solicitors have ben fighting legal aid cuts for many years now - I remember going to a protest meeting in 1990 about it! Strangely although they are, on the whole, excellent at getting results for their clients I cannot recall a single concession on the funding issue ever having been made. Everyone supports nurses and hospitals against the cuts, no one loves a lawyer even though the consequence of a miscarriage of justice can have devastating effects.

CelticPromise Wed 05-Jun-13 12:07:47

Bumping. I've responded to the consultation, signed the petitions and written to my MP, so I'm back to nag the rest of you!

DreamingOfTheMaldives Wed 05-Jun-13 13:01:28

Here is a link to a Young Legal Aid Lawyers website which has a template for anyone who wants to write to their MP regarding the proposed Legal Aid Cuts.

Please write to your MP, if only using this template, and please sign the petition SaveUKJustice

CelticPromise Wed 05-Jun-13 13:21:51

higgle there certainly is an unscrupulous element, now they loiter at court trying to pick up other people's duty cases. Unfortunately it's the solicitors doinga decent job who get screwed over by the cuts- I imagine the usual suspects will do rather well out of encouraging early guilty pleas, sending the office junior to the police station etc.

Signed petition and shared on fb

higgle Wed 05-Jun-13 13:50:23

CelticPromise - yes, there is always that element about. I think things must have got a lot worse over the 10 years I have been away from the profession. I'm coming back to the thread to say that it is a fallacy that the more wealthy who can instruct lawyers privately will always be OK - they won't because the present bunch of senior barristers, good solicitors and QCs all got their experience doing legal aid work and it is the constant practice of law - which is as much about intuition and emotional intelligence as academia - which builds a good defence lawyer.

CelticPromise Wed 05-Jun-13 14:52:02

Good point higgle.

danceponydance Wed 05-Jun-13 15:40:37

I've had a response to my email from one of the Justic Select Committee members, I suspect it's a standard response but despite this it is quite long and detailed. Also had a shorter response from my own MP saying he's waiting to see the official response to the consultation.

beeny Wed 05-Jun-13 22:34:30