Whilst I appreciate the law need be as authoritative as possible thereby requiring the use of ritualistic formal and even archaic language, we must find a way of simplifying matters such that those whom can't afford lawyers but need the support of the law and access to justice, find a way to it without becoming lost in translation.
Access to legal advice is scarcer now than it was in 1949, a damning report by the General Bar Council has claimed. The study, published by the regulatory body last year, claims that cuts to legal aid have left "devastating" implications for those hoping for a fair trial within Britain's criminal justice system.
On 4 August 2014 a 'residence test' for legal aid was to be implemented by the government. If this policy had come into force, we would have had to ask that child to produce documentation to prove that she was a lawful resident in the UK... She may not have been able to do so, through no fault of her own.
Recently, the Government unveiled plans to shave a further £220million off criminal legal aid, generating considerable opposition from across the profession and in charities and campaign groups. Ministers have fought a clever guerrilla campaign. They've salami sliced bit by bit to mitigate the short-term impact of their plans. They successfully divided and ruled the legal profession. They've smeared legal aid lawyers as fat cats and made out legal aid is only used by unworthy criminals. Needless to say, the truth is rather different.
There has been much in the press recently regarding how much barristers can expect to receive from their criminal work - many figures of which I feel are totally misleading. The best way to illustrate this is with a personal example which shows that in the line of duty many barristers work for very little, or even nothing at all.
I fully understand why some in the legal profession feel bruised or worry about how our reforms might affect them. However the government and the legal profession must work together to create a legal aid system that protects those who need it most whilst also commanding the confidence of taxpayers who fund it. Put simply, we want to ensure the limited money we have available for legal aid is concentrated on those cases where it is needed most. Our proposals would ensure a system sustainable and affordable for future generations, and it will remain one of the most generous in the world.
We are facing nothing less than an attempt by the Ministry of Justice to destroy the independent criminal bar. I doubt anyone still believes the MoJ will listen to the evidence, or engage with us unless compelled to do so. Work at our current rates is almost unsustainable - at the new rates survival is inconceivable.
Chris Grayling may have been forced into a humiliating climb-down on his plans to eliminate client choice from criminal legal aid, but don't jump for joy just yet. It's just one battle in a war on many fronts. Other aspects of his legal aid reforms are just as egregious and he shows no sign of backing down on them. Today, Grayling will be appearing before the Justice Select Committee for a grilling by a panel of MPs. Questions that MPs on the committee should ask him include...