Law Society slams legal aid 'lottery'

A CRITICAL response to the Government's legal aid proposals has been released by the Law Society which claims plans for rigid new controls would do little to make the system more cost-effective.

The society says the Green Paper proposals have been designed to serve the interests of the Treasury and not the public with planned cash limits turning legal aid into a “lottery”.

“Despite the fact that legal aid expenditure is no longer rising at an unsustainable rate, the Government remains obsessed by a desire to have absolute control over the level of expenditure in any year,” says the provisional response.

“They start from the proposition that legal aid must be cash limited, and attempt to devise a structure in which that may appear workable.”

The society believes its own reforms would save about £190 million. It suggests cutting the costs of legal action to bring down legal aid costs.

Proposals for change include streamlining cases in the civil court, greater use of alternatives to going to court, tighter controls on QC fees, reforming unclear laws and a new approach to costly fraud trials.

“The society deplores the fact the Green Paper contains no significant suggestions to improve the level of eligibility for legal aid,” says the response. “Improving eligibility is the most urgent priority for legal aid.”