LEGAL AID: Cuts will hit poor hardest

Voyteck Kowalewski ANL-150413-162426001
Voyteck Kowalewski ANL-150413-162426001

The Rt Hon John Hayes (“Building a one nation system of justice”, Lincolnshire Free Press, June 30) was perfectly right to deplore, in his passionate way, a two-nations justice system and so was Michael Gove in his speech on Tuesday, June 23.

We all agree that our justice system should serve equally well all people, whether they are rich or poor.

Albeit, it is Michael Gove who, by cutting the provision of legal aid to poor people, further promulgates such a two-nations system.

Wealthy people can afford expensive solicitors and have first-class representation. It is not the case for the poor.

Until the coalition government, a poor person, thanks to the legal aid, could receive high-quality representation.

Mr Gove is not right suggesting that such a facility is still available under this government.

Quite to the contrary, it is far less available in the light of further cuts to legal aid.

It is naive to believe that the services of top-notch solicitors and barristers could be obtained at the hourly rates being a fraction of their regular fees.

John Briant (“Legal aid cuts will hurt vulnerable people, not fat-cat lawyers”, The Guardian, July 2) described a case where he represented a man, with suspected mental health problems, who was arrested by the police.

He was paid £15 per hour for his work. Before the cuts to the legal aid started, he would have been paid two-thirds of the rate his firm could claim, ie £44 per hour.

Now the government is cutting these rates by a further 8.75 per cent.

Mr Gove and Mr Hayes are right in saying that the way the courts work needs improvement.

But, please, don’t tell us that the poor will have the same access to justice. Recent cuts to legal aid make it very unlikely.