Caven blog

The ramifications of the Government’s criminal legal aid cuts exposed by Cameron’s brother

A serious fraud trial has today (01 May 2014) been halted due to the judge deciding that there was no prospect of a fair trial.

The reasoning is that the defendants will not be adequately represented because no barristers agreed to take on the case.

Back in January we wrote about the mass walkout by barristers and solicitors in response to the Government’s plans to cut criminal legal aid fees.

There was another protest in March opposing the cuts, but in April 2014 the cuts and bidding process in criminal legal aid work were introduced by the Ministry of Justice.

Defendants with no representation

And in today’s incredible news, it has transpired that no barristers with relevant experience in complex fraud cases offered to take on this case because of the cuts imposed on fees.

Alexander Cameron, QC, David Cameron’s brother, appeared on a pro-bono basis for the eight defendants, and asked the judge for the case to be stayed.

According to the Guardian he claimed that: ‘The state has failed to provide adequate representation to allow the trial to take place’. He continued, saying that, ‘We are worried about a fair trial.’

The judge, Anthony Leonard, QC, agreed, and halted the case.

But what will happen to the trial? Even if it’s halted, and delayed for several months, are we likely to have barristers wishing to take on the case in the future? Possibly not, which leaves the trial in a precarious state.

The effects of criminal legal aid cuts

When the cuts were first announced, it was believed that this would lead to a reduction in the quality of representation in criminal cases.

Experienced barristers wouldn’t want to take on cases with a massive reduction in fees, which would leave junior barristers to pick up cases, often with no great knowledge of the law in that situation.

This clearly offers people requiring legal aid reduced access to justice compared to those who can pay for experienced barristers.

However, it wasn’t expected that in some instances defendants would receive no representation at all.

Perhaps it’s a concerted effort by experienced barristers to force the Government to see the results of their recent cuts. If so it has been effective, although gambling with eight people’s access to justice in order to do so is difficult to accept.

Maybe, and more likely, it is simply an inevitable and unfortunate result of the new changes. If so, we can only hope that there will be a re-think.

Original story: The Guardian

Result: The BBC

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