The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ignored the pleas of The Law Society and the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) to delay the planned cuts to Legal Aid, insisting that the government’s timetable cannot be changed.
Last month the JCHR made the plea to the government last month, after it launched an inquiry into the implications of further cuts to legal aid and wrote to the government asking them not to implement any further cuts until the inquiry had run its course, which will conclude in October.
But Chris Grayling, who has said he will co-operate with the JCHR‘s inquiry, insisted that the cuts have to go ahead saying: “The decision to accelerate the next tranche of legal aid reforms was taken because of the acute need to continue to bear down on the costs of legal aid against a backdrop of continuing pressure on public finances, and to address questions of public confidence in the legal aid scheme.”
The Justice Secretary has said that there will be a short period of consultation on some of the suggested changes to the government’s proposals including the decision not to remove the choice of solicitor from criminal defendants, announced at the justice select committee at the beginning of August and an exemption of babies aged less than 12 months from the civil legal aid residency test.
Of course it is not the first time that the legal sector has been ignored when it comes to legal aid reform. The personal injury industry has been subjected to wholesale cuts, which have crippled some areas of the sector and left many firms battling for their futures, despite the revelations that the insurance industry used erroneous figures to influence the governments decision.
1. The Guardian; Sean Dempsey; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/05/chris-grayling-announces-legal-aid-reform-u-turn-politics-live-blog