Reform to criminal legal aid doesn’t have an exciting ring to it, but alarm bells should be ringing. Not so much because of the valid worries of the lawyers about what amounts to another cut in their income from legal aid, but because of the low rate at which it is proposed that contributions will start – £68 per week of disposable income. People on benefits will not have to pay but anyone in work will have to pay at least something, impacting on the poorest individuals and families. If they fail to pay they will go unrepresented or will lose their representative of choice. It’s all too easy to imagine accused persons opting to plead guilty without proper advice, or having to represent themselves. There is a legitimate fear that miscarriages of justice will occur. This unpopular proposed reform risks the access to justice that our legal aid system purports to defend.
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