Readers should be aware that the government has already cut civil legal aid by a massive £350m a year.
However, it has announced new proposals which would not only deny people accused of a criminal offence the right to choose their lawyer, but would mean that everyone who needed legal aid would need to provide evidence that they had lived lawfully in the UK for at least 12 months.
It is important that we do not lose sight of why legal aid was established some 60 years ago. The aim was to ensure that no one was excluded from seeking redress through the justice system through inability to pay for legal representation.
It has performed that function admirably for over six decades, contributing to ensuring access to justice for all, while adapting to meet the changing needs of society.
The Government’s proposals are putting at risk the fundamentals of our justice system. By focusing on the cost of legal provision to the exclusion of quality, there is a risk that standards of representation will fall and that pressure will be placed on accused persons to plead guilty where they are innocent or have a defence.
I would urge readers to sign the online petition at submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628.
Legal aid is essential to ensure we are all equal in the eyes of the law – rich and poor alike.