Bar calls for legal aid watchdog

The Chairman of the Bar Council has called for an independent watchdog to oversee the “monolithic” new legal aid system and ensure that access to justice is maintained across the country.

Dan Brennan QC tells The Lawyer: “My concern is that in this new legal aid system there doesn't appear to be any independent person with the role of ensuring the system is actually working the way the Government intends it to and in the consumer interest.”

The watchdog, he says, could ensure that money is distributed properly around the country and that rural areas do not suffer. It should ensure that services provided within the Legal Services Commission are of an acceptable standard and, “most importantly, that consumers have a source of protection”.

“People can go to the NHS and find out whether there are enough beds. We need an entity that can do something similar for the legal service – are there enough lawyers in all areas and if not, why not?”