With much of our law now ‘Made In Europe’, and complicated, being able to challenge perverse legislation is a must. In 2009-10, the Conservatives opposed Labour’s plans to try to restrict those found innocent in reclaiming ‘reasonable legal costs’. Now the Coalition is to revive them, for a saving of £40m a year – maybe other EU countries need it more…?
Innocent people will be forced to pay thousands of pounds for their own defence lawyers after a controversial coalition U-turn on legal aid.
The move, which lawyers’ organisations claim puts a price on justice, comes at a time of mounting concern over cutbacks proposed by the Ministry of Justice. Clause 52 in the legal aid and sentencing bill removes the right of defendants to have the “reasonable” costs of hiring their own lawyer reimbursed if they are found innocent.
The plan was first drawn up by the previous Labour government, but was scrapped in the face of Tory opposition. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, the solicitor general, Edward Garnier, and justice ministers Jonathan Djanogly and Crispin Blunt all opposed the plan, and signed an early day motion against it in October 2009. But their decision now to back a similar proposal has alarmed justice groups. which have branded it a U-turn.
“We are deeply disappointed that this government is trying to bring this back,” said Robert Khan, head of law reform at the Law Society. “It is wrong in principle that the acquitted person should then have to pay the costs of their defence for the temerity of proving their own innocence.”
Ministers expect to save £40m under the proposals. More than one million defendants who appeared before magistrates courts in 2008 did not receive legal aid, meaning the estimated tens of thousands subsequently found innocent would have lost out financially.
more @ The Observer
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