Paying the price for a lack of leadership

The Bar's response to Lord Irvine's attack on the civil legal aid scheme recommending the closer monitoring of costs in long-running criminal cases and the extension of graduated fees seems a sensible solution. However, observers are entitled to ask why these steps were not taken before now. Neither the Bar nor the Law Society have in truth taken the initiative on legal aid matters. All responses to reform have generally been defensive. Consequently, the Government has been handed the ammunition to cloud the real issues of access to justice by blaming the lawyers. And both the consumers and lawyers will ultimately lose out.