Hundreds of lawyers gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on 22 May to protest against the government’s legal aid cuts.
The demonstration was a response to the Ministry of Justice’s plans to cut £220m from the legal aid budget, which opponents argue will irreparably damage access to justice in the UK, leaving thousands of vulnerable people without access to professional legal representation or only able to seek advice from a small number of supplier on public contracts.
The proposals, published in a green paper called Transforming Legal Aid on 9 April 2013, are under consultation until 4 June.
The reforms introduce a system of competitive best-value tendering for criminal defence work which will mean that the number of providers will fall from 1,600 to a maximum of 400 nationally.
Contracts will last three years initially and be allotted according to regional quotas to providers offering the lowest price while meeting what opponents believe to be a minimal level of quality. All legal aid litigation, including Crown Court work, will fall under the new rules.
Twitter was ablaze last week with reports from protest under the hashtag #saveUKjustice.
To understand the genuine emotion that these reforms have sparked in firms and chambers across the nation, we have curated opinions from the lawyers themselves. Not just legal aid lawyers, whose livelihoods are under threat, but all lawyers who feel a real responsibility to preserve access to justice in the UK. Here is just some of what they’ve been saying since 9 April:
Patrick Torsney argues that government has ‘put a price on justice and are ensuring we are unable to pay’
The government’s consultation is a sham and best-value tendering of criminal legal aid contracts is ‘illiberal’, argues David Allen Green
How might vulnerable criminal defendants be treated under the new rules? A taste of things to come from Jaimerhblog
Why it’s not just legal aid lawyers that are showing an interest in this debate: a barrister’s wife shows what access to justice means in practice
The Intrigant tries to console the Lord Chancellor with the possibility, however slight, that he is right and everyone else is wrong
Barrister 999 summarises the issues and reveals what really goes on when the Lord Chancellor comes face to face with lawyers
Nadia Salam, a committee member of Young Legal Aid Lawyers, reflects on the effect of legal aid cuts on vulnerable adults
Dennis Kavanagh breaks down a list of threats to the criminal Bar via a colourful appraisal of QASA, BVT and POA
And Doughty Street Chambers’ Nichola Higgins talked to us about changes to legal aid for the Hot 100 earlier this year:
Nichola Higgins, Doughty Street