Solicitors up in arms over legal aid changes

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Solicitors were united in their opposition to further legal aid cuts at a recent emergency meeting of Lancaster and Morecambe Law Society.

The Government plans to remove the right of persons arrested by the police to have a solicitor of their choice.

They will be allocated a representative unless they can afford to pay.

Non-legal bodies such as Tesco, G4S and Eddie Stobart are being invited to bid for contracts to provide police station, magistrates court and crown court representation.

Only 14 contracts will be offered for Lancashire and those bidding for contracts would have to be able to cover all courts and police stations in the county. No money will be paid for travelling to the different locations and fees will be drastically reduced.

As well as solicitors and barristers, the Magistrates’ Association and the Criminal Cases Review Commission are opposed to the plans.

It is feared that many vulnerable members of society will be unable to get advice.

“The government promotes choice in every area of society and yet seeks to remove it from the justice system.” said David Mainwaring of the local Law Society.

“A person chooses a firm of solicitors to represent them because they know that they will get quality advice and representation.

“The government acknowledge that the removal of choice and rock bottom fees will result in lower standards but they clearly don`t care.

“The damage caused to the justice system will be profound and irreversible.”