Commenting on today’s Government announcement on Transforming Legal Aid, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan MP said:
“Legal aid is a lifeline to many of the most vulnerable in our society. Just like the NHS and social security, a civilised society needs a system of legal aid to ensure access to justice for everyone. Of course, savings must be found in the justice system but the way Chris Grayling is savaging our legal system could mean it is unsustainable and dysfunctional in the future. Labour and experts in the profession and justice system have come forward with alternatives to the Government’s crackpot legal aid plans. There are inefficiencies and wasted resources that should instead be the Government’s focus. If these were targeted real savings could be made that make more efficient our legal system.
“Instead, Grayling has pursued a sham consultation and is pushing ahead with his plans. The Lord Chancellor has done nothing to address the concerns of those who believe his plans risk damaging the public’s confidence in our justice system. He has built on a caricature of lawyers being fat cat ambulance chasers not realising that some of those who work in law centres, CAB’s, high street firms and junior barristers earn on average a third of what MP’s earn and a sixth of what the Lord Chancellor earns.
“Many local small firms will close down, just as law centres and CAB’s have and any hope we have of making the judiciary or legal profession more diverse will be gone. Even the report by KPMG commissioned by the Ministry of Justice casts serious doubt on whether their proposals will work in practice, most worryingly questioning the future provision of legal aid across London.
“Legal aid isn’t just for criminals, despite what the Government might say. It’s about righting wrongs, settling injustices and allowing the innocent to clear their names. We rely on it to lubricate the wheels of our justice system, and it gives us greater confidence the truly guilty are being convicted and punished. The Government’s legal aid plans risk creating a two tier legal system with the best service for those that can afford it and justice denied to those who can’t. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats should be ashamed.”