CITIZENS accused of a crime will not be able to defend themselves because of cuts to legal aid, lawyers have said.
Lawyers will not attend court on Friday after it was announced almost two-thirds of firms eligible to provide Duty Solicitor advice will no longer be able to do so from March 20.
This means a reduction in law firms able to offer representation at police stations and Magistrates’ Courts to those who do not have a lawyer of their own.
Bill Waddington, chairman of the CLSA, said: “The Lawyers will not be going to Court because they can see what the Lord Chancellor refuses to see. “His attack on a legal profession which represents everyone accused of a crime, be they innocent or guilty, will destroy not only the profession by degrees but also the ability of every citizen to defend themselves when accused of a crime.”
The 1,600 current providers will be cut to 525 as the government makes a cut of 8.75 per cent to what lawyers are paid to represent individuals in police stations or courts.
The reforms were published in the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s consultation on Transforming Criminal Legal Aid.
Mr Waddington added: “What the Lord Chancellor has proposed is an attack on the Criminal Justice System and the fundamental freedoms of every citizen.
“Lawyers do not wish to see those who are investigated for a criminal offence or charged with a crime to be badly represented or worse, not represented at all. “The longer term effects will be a massive gap in the quality and experience of criminal lawyers who in turn will make up a far less qualified judiciary in future years.”
Mr Waddington continued: “Barristers practising in Criminal Law, long misrepresented by the government as ‘the fat cats of the legal profession’ are also being affected by these proposals with cuts in some fees of up to 30 per cent. “It will be the newest and youngest entrants to the professions with substantial student debts accumulated in order to qualify as lawyers who will suffer the most.”
Justice Secretary Grayling said: “As everybody knows, this government is dealing with an unprecedented financial challenge and I have no choice but to look for the savings I have to make across the full range of the Ministry of Justice’s work.
“I cannot exempt legal aid from this but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand how challenging these reductions will be.”