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Legal Aid Can’t Legally Help!

To “let’s kill all the lawyers” is definitely one way of substantially cutting the legal aid budget! The famous Shakespearean quote is always guaranteed a hearty laugh when audiences watch Henry VI. Another way to trim the more than £2.1bn spent on legal aid last year is to tinker with the eligibility criteria in family cases. As from April this year, only those who are victims of domestic violence may benefit from legal aid in private law family cases. It is a moot point, however, whether the government will still be laughing by the end of the year, when it starts to review the effects of the cuts.

Too much already has been spoken of “false economies” and “the knock-on effect” and “value for money” and “failure to do justice”, but these are the phrases which most readily spring to mind when the cuts are contemplated in detail. Another phrase which would definitely be on my mum’s lips, were she here to utter it, is “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” All but the dimmest of costs management accountants will surely see that the costs “saved” by not paying for legal aid lawyers will be lost by paying for longer and more frequent court hearings. In other words, the money will simply be moved from one part of the system to another part of it!

I suspect that judges of all levels (not known for their patience in my experience) will soon tire of hearing spurious arguments, having to resolve pointless disputes and having to repeatedly explain legal concepts and precedents in an intelligible way to lay clients. Most lawyers have a knack of knowing when least said is soonest mended.

The Justice Secretary steadfastly rejects claims that the projected cuts will hit women and children the hardest. He doesnt seem to hear the logic of the arguments, preferring instead to risk melt-down in the courts. Possibly it will have to be a case of “if you cant hear, then you must feel” as those of us who have a Caribbean background used to hear our parents say, back in the day!

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