Earlier today I appeared on the Lizzie and Carl breakfast show on BBC Radio Humberside to discuss the legal aid cuts.
I did not sugarcoat my opinion. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling needs kicking out of office. He has overseen the dismantling of a system which allowed anyone to seek justice. It is an utter disgrace.
I explained that when I started my career as a divorce lawyer over 30 years ago, legal aid was not an issue.
Everyone had access to the courts. If you were rich, you paid for legal representation. If you were poor, you qualified for legal aid. If you were somewhere in the middle, legal aid was often available with a contribution.
Over the years, legal aid has been steadily eroded. On 1st April 2013 it was all but abolished for private family law cases.
Despite the drastic cuts, there are still certain circumstances where help is available. Unfortunately, the bar is set so high that qualifying for it is extremely difficult. For example, if domestic violence is involved, and you can prove it, then you may qualify.
The argument that the legal aid cuts were done because of exorbitant fees for solicitors and barristers is utter rubbish. There is a significant gulf between the fees for private lawyers and those who work for legal aid cases.
I stopped doing legal aid cases back in 1990 because the fees were not enough to keep a firm profitable, but there would be many dedicated legal professionals eager to represent those who need it despite the low rate of pay.
The cuts are a false economy. We are told they were implemented to save money, but what it has produced is a growing number of people representing themselves.
These people, called ‘litigants in person’, do not know what they are doing. They have no legal training or qualifications and they often need judges to help them through the cases. As a result cases are taking much longer and the courts are clogged up.
Legal aid can work. It can be done in a cost effective way, but this government is not interested in making it work. They made a decision that legal aid had to go, regardless of the consequences, and that’s what they have done.
You can listen to my full segment here, starting at 1:09:40. It will be available for the next few days.