With the criminal legal aid freeze which has been in place for a lengthy period of time, and the plans of a speedier Court system after the London Riots, including the loss of case management hearings, and with virtual courts being rolled out in more counties, fees are tighter than ever. After the Riots, plans are being put in place to deal with criminals during the London Olympics. Extra occasional Courts have been planned, and measures have been put in to place. All seems rosy, criminals are being dealt with as quickly as possible, but is justice prevailing?
Court admin staff have being made redundant, Court receptions are empty and you now show yourself in. Other full-time Courts have become occasional Courts, sitting on a Saturday only.
Cuts are being made everywhere – not just in crime, but are they necessary. It seems that cuts are being made in some aspects and fund is granted in others, such as occasional Courts. The mind boggles.
It is typical of solicitors and law firms to innovate and be creative in keeping defence fair for all. They must think of new ways in order to ensure that people receive the representation they require when they cannot afford huge lawyers hourly fees. When legal aid is frozen or cut, and funds are hard to get your hands on, it can become very difficult.
It is now of surprise to me that ministers are encouraging Magistrates Courts to open at weekends and evenings to deal with Trials, and to allow JPs to conduct cases in community centres. What exactly is the point in this? Why make cuts during the week and to the process when it appears that the problem is just being shifted. A solution is required, and that is to keep the Court system running like clockwork, be consistent and fair. Don’t shift the workload, keep it smooth throughout.
I completely accept that the system can be slow and costs too high, but does speed equal justice? And who is paying the price for these cuts and speedy trials – society, the victims, the solicitors, the criminals, or all?
If you are interested in legal aid cuts, here is a short but perfect piece, courtesy of the Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/22/legal-aid-cuts-what-price-justice?INTCMP=SRCH – Enjoy.