Lawyers warn of threat to legal aid

THOUSANDS of people in East Anglia could lose their access to justice if Government funding for the legal aid system is slashed.

Graham Dines

THOUSANDS of people in East Anglia could lose their access to justice if Government funding for the legal aid system is slashed.

The warning comes from the Bar Council, which believes the inevitable consequence of cuts in Government spending is that legal aid for some of the most vulnerable people in society will be endangered.

David Spens, leader of the South Eastern Circuit, has written to Barbara Follett, regional minister for the East of England, asking her to support a campaign to safeguard legal aid.


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The Bar Council, which wants to create a world-class legal aid system that is held in the same esteem as the National Health Service, has issued a consultation document.

Mr Spens said there were 8,000 barristers working in the South East and the East of England of which approximately half undertake legal aid.

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“They work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of society and do desperately important work,” he said.

He is urging Mrs Follett to “stand up for access to justice”.

Tim Dutton, chairman of the Bar said: “We may be about to face the irreversible consequences of the erosion of legal aid, brought about by reductions in funding of front-line services by Government.

“Legal aid is worth standing up for - not for the sake of lawyers, but in the public interest and in the interests of justice. A robust legal aid system serves the goals of the conviction of the guilty and the acquittal of the innocent.”

Mr Dutton said: It is also a tool for tackling social exclusion, and a powerful weapon in favour of the weak, the victim and hard-working families who deserve a fairer deal from the law.

“It is in the interests of justice, because the court system cannot operate effectively without the support of suitably qualified and properly paid solicitors and advocates, with a fundamental duty to the court, and a responsibility to do the right thing in the eyes of the law.”

A spokesman for Mrs Follett said: “When she receives the discussion paper, the minister will give it her close attention.”

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