Tory MP regrets voting for legal aid cuts

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DSilva
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https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018...legal-aid-cuts

Nigel Evans, as some of you may remember, was charged with a number of offences in 2014 and was ultimately acquitted. However, as a result of a law that he voted for (LASPO), he was ineligible for legal aid and had to spend £130,000 of his own money defending himself. Despite being acquitted of the charge, he was unable to reclaim the vast majority of the money he spent defending himself.

Prior to 2012 if you were accused of a crime you had access to legal aid, whatever your financial situation which would cover your legal costs. You were also entitled to seek private legal representation and if you were acquitted, you would be refunded your costs.

However, now if you are charged with a criminal offence, you will not be eligible for legal aid if your household income is above £37,500 or £22,325 in the magistrates court. In other words, you have to foot the bill yourself and only get back a small portion of it if you are acquitted.

So that's the state of our justice system. If you are falsely accused of a crime and earn over the relatively low threshold, you have to pay your own legal costs, which cannot be refunded even if you are acquitted. The result is innocent people having to spend tens of thousands of pounds of their own money defending themselves or having to represent themselves.

Perhaps the Tory MP should have thought about that before he voted for this law.
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L i b
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Speaking as a Tory myself, I do have problems with the Government's approach to legal aid.

These costs are sometimes enormous. I do wonder if there is some insurance-based approach that might be better, but equally I think that's slightly problematic too: if, for example, you cannot be criminally convicted, but on the balance of probabilities bar used in civil cases you probably did whatever it was you were charged with, then it seems inequitable for an insurer (and the contributions of others) to pay out.
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DSilva
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(Original post by L i b)
Speaking as a Tory myself, I do have problems with the Government's approach to legal aid.

These costs are sometimes enormous. I do wonder if there is some insurance-based approach that might be better, but equally I think that's slightly problematic too: if, for example, you cannot be criminally convicted, but on the balance of probabilities bar used in civil cases you probably did whatever it was you were charged with, then it seems inequitable for an insurer (and the contributions of others) to pay out.
Who would insure criminal cases? The MOJ has had to absorb 40% cuts, 250 courts were closed, lawyers paid much less to the point they leave the profession and legal aid slashed. It's no wonder you get miscarriages of justice when the system is so under resourced. The system should go back to what it was pre coalition. Anyone charged with an offence is entitled to legal aid, or they can go private and get refunded in full if they are acquitted.

People who end up being acquitted are having to pay tens of thousands of their own money now, and only get refunded a tiny amount back. It is an 'innocence tax'. If the state charges you with an offence that you are found not guilty of, after paying to defend yourself, what possible justification is there for not being refunded?

The justice system isn't like other public services which should only be funded if there's spare money. It's the most essential institution that underpins all others. If you can't access justice to enforce your rights, the rule of law fails. There has been a marked increase in non legally qualified people having to represent themselves in court.
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Pinkisk
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Sadly, thanks to the nonstop cuts to everything by the Conservatives, justice in this country, for many, can now only be bought. If you cannot financially afford to pay for justice, you will struggle to achieve it.
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DrMikeHuntHertz
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Better off defending yourself.
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Notoriety
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(Original post by DSilva)
https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018...legal-aid-cuts

Nigel Evans, as some of you may remember, was charged with a number of offences in 2014 and was ultimately acquitted. However, as a result of a law that he voted for (LASPO), he was ineligible for legal aid and had to spend £130,000 of his own money defending himself. Despite being acquitted of the charge, he was unable to reclaim the vast majority of the money he spent defending himself.

Prior to 2012 if you were accused of a crime you had access to legal aid, whatever your financial situation which would cover your legal costs. You were also entitled to seek private legal representation and if you were acquitted, you would be refunded your costs.

However, now if you are charged with a criminal offence, you will not be eligible for legal aid if your household income is above £37,500 or £22,325 in the magistrates court. In other words, you have to foot the bill yourself and only get back a small portion of it if you are acquitted.

So that's the state of our justice system. If you are falsely accused of a crime and earn over the relatively low threshold, you have to pay your own legal costs, which cannot be refunded even if you are acquitted. The result is innocent people having to spend tens of thousands of pounds of their own money defending themselves or having to represent themselves.

Perhaps the Tory MP should have thought about that before he voted for this law.
37.5k gross disposable income. Meaning after income tax, council tax, NI, housing costs, living expenses.
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DSilva
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(Original post by Notoriety)
37.5k gross disposable income. Meaning after income tax, council tax, NI, housing costs, living expenses.
It's nowhere near enough to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to defend your liberty. If you are found not guilty, you do not get refunded.

The end result being a big middle chunk of people who don't qualify for legal aid, but aren't wealthy enough to afford private legal representation, so they defend themselves..
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Notoriety
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(Original post by DSilva)
It's nowhere near enough to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to defend your liberty. If you are found not guilty, you do not get refunded.

The end result being a big middle chunk of people who don't qualify for legal aid, but aren't wealthy enough to afford private legal representation, so they defend themselves..
I am not defending the legal aid cuts; merely correcting you as there is a huge difference between the means test being 37.5k of income over 37.5k of gross disposable income. And people on here cannot distinguish between providing a factual correction pertaining to a premise and disagreeing with the overall conclusion.
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Pinkisk
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(Original post by Notoriety)
37.5k gross disposable income. Meaning after income tax, council tax, NI, housing costs, living expenses.
Your elegibility for support isn't solely determined by your gross disposable income. The issue is far more complicated. Many people who have a disposable income less than 37.5k are turned down for legal aid. The government has made it extremely diffcult for a person to recieve legal aid. You can now only apply for legal aid if you qualify for it and the conditions are very very strict. Firstly, not all areas of law are covered and those that are covered and do receive aid, receive only "minimal assistance". As in lawyers will not prepare a legal aid case in the same way they would a privately funded one, to which they would devote more effort, time and resources. You have to fill out extremely complicated forms that are impossible to understand by a lay person. You have to justfiy your case to the government. Most applications for legal aid, even those made by individuals with a gross annual income less than 37.5k are rejected. Legal aid is, according to the government, only reserved for "those most in need of it"...the government has a very strict criteria by which it defines those "most in need"...and even if you qualify, it is extremely hard to first find a decent lawyer willing to accept legal aid and second willing to give it the time it deserves. Most likely you will wind up with a firm that has younger lawyers with little to no experience in dealing with your case.
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Notoriety
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(Original post by Pinkisk)
Your elegibility for support isn't solely determined by your gross disposable income. The issue is far more complicated. Many people who have a disposable income less than 37.5k are turned down for legal aid. The government has made it extremely diffcult for a person to recieve legal aid. You can now only apply for legal aid if you qualify for it and the conditions are very very strict. Firstly, not all areas of law are covered and those that are covered and do receive aid, receive only "minimal assistance". As in lawyers will not prepare a legal aid case in the same way they would a privately funded one, to which they would devote more effort, time and resources. You have to fill out extremely complicated forms that are impossible to understand by a lay person. You have to justfiy your case to the government. Most applications for legal aid, even those made by individuals with a gross annual income less than 37.5k are rejected. Legal aid is, according to the government, only reserved for "those most in need of it"...the government has a very strict criteria by which it defines those "most in need"...and even if you qualify, it is extremely hard to first find a decent lawyer willing to accept legal aid and second willing to give it the time it deserves. Most likely you will wind up with a firm that has younger lawyers with little to no experience in dealing with your case.
For a representation order in the crown court, i.e. the issue identified in the OP, there is an income-based means test and there is the interests of justice test. The interests of justice test is automatically satisfied in the crown court and the income-based means test is, as OP said, 37.5k. I am not sure how people under the 37.5k threshold, at crown court, could still be rejected -- never mind routinely.

And you could not possibly mean advice and assistance or representation in the magistrates' because these have different thresholds; they are not 37.5k.
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Pinkisk
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(Original post by Notoriety)
For a representation order in the crown court, i.e. the issue identified in the OP, there is an income-based means test and there is the interests of justice test. The interests of justice test is automatically satisfied in the crown court and the income-based means test is, as OP said, 37.5k. I am not sure how people under the 37.5k threshold, at crown court, could still be rejected -- never mind routinely.

And you could not possibly mean advice and assistance or representation in the magistrates' because these have different thresholds; they are not 37.5k.
Here's an article about the issue. I think it addresses the issue better than I could :s

https://www.theguardian.com/money/20...ector-job-cuts
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Notoriety
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(Original post by Pinkisk)
Here's an article about the issue. I think it addresses the issue better than I could :s

https://www.theguardian.com/money/20...ector-job-cuts
Surry but that article does not talk about the specific rules that apply to crown court representation.
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DSilva
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(Original post by Notoriety)
I am not defending the legal aid cuts; merely correcting you as there is a huge difference between the means test being 37.5k of income over 37.5k of gross disposable income. And people on here cannot distinguish between providing a factual correction pertaining to a premise and disagreeing with the overall conclusion.
You neglected to mention that if you earn below that, you will still be required to make contributions towards your legal fees.
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ChaoticButterfly
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Every tory when they come into direct contact with the results of their policies.


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L i b
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(Original post by DSilva)
Who would insure criminal cases?
Insurance companies, one would imagine. The idea of having insurance against legal proceedings in the criminal courts is hardly much different from public liability insurance or even life insurance.

The MOJ has had to absorb 40% cuts, 250 courts were closed, lawyers paid much less to the point they leave the profession and legal aid slashed. It's no wonder you get miscarriages of justice when the system is so under resourced.
That a service has been reduced does not necessarily demonstrate that it is not fix for purpose, but I take your point in this situation. As I understand it, the Government isn't terribly happy with how things have turned out either.

That said, the original objection still holds true: the UK spends has a budget for legal aid support many times higher than France or Germany. Even with reductions, we are nowhere near as low as our European neighbours on this.

The justice system isn't like other public services which should only be funded if there's spare money. It's the most essential institution that underpins all others. If you can't access justice to enforce your rights, the rule of law fails.
I'm sure rather a lot of people would say similar things about healthcare, policing, social security...

There's certainly scope to change things for the better and that will need investment.
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DSilva
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(Original post by L i b)
Insurance companies, one would imagine. The idea of having insurance against legal proceedings in the criminal courts is hardly much different from public liability insurance or even life insurance.
It's a rather silly idea that, managing something as fundamental criminal defence on a private insurance basis. Imagine people who've been convicted before, the chance of them getting insurance or being able to afford it is next to nothing - even if they are charged with an offence they are inncocent of.



That said, the original objection still holds true: the UK spends has a budget for legal aid support many times higher than France or Germany. Even with reductions, we are nowhere near as low as our European neighbours on this.
That was a line parrotted by the MoJ, but the claim is incredibly misleading at best. It has been widely discredited. The claim that we spend much more on legal aid came from a study by the MoJ in 2014 of 8 countries and it did indeed find we spend more on legal aid.

However, what it didn't take into account is that other countries have completely different systems which means they rely less on legal aid. You are not comparing like for like. France for example has an inquisitorial system, whereby the court itself spends a lot of money on the case - significantly reducing the amount the parties pay and therby reducing the need for legal aid. Other countries have a 'public defender' model in which lawyers employed by the state provide legal defence - meaning there is far less need for legal aid to be spent on private providers. Their systems are so different to ours, that comparing them based on the amount of legal aid spent is a poor metric, when other systems have other sources of public funding.

As the SB has pointed out, while our legal aid budget is high, our courts budget is much lower than other countries. A better metric for comparison is the total amount spent on courts, prosecution and GDP as a percentage of GDP. In the UK its 0.33% which is merely the average for Europe. It's less than Moldova spends for instance. And bear in mind we tend to have higher prison levels and more convictions than other countries.

In short, you are comparing apples and oranges.



I'm sure rather a lot of people would say similar things about healthcare, policing, social security...

There's certainly scope to change things for the better and that will need investment.
As a self proclaimed lefty I would generally support higher levels of public spending on most public services, granted. However I would still contend that the justice system is the most important - because it underpins our entire constituion in a way that other services don't. Fundamental to our democracy is the rule of law - the notion that ordinary citizens are able to enforce their rights granted to them by law, and that oridnary people will not be wrongfully imprisoned by the state. If people cannot afford to do that, the system fails. What is the point, for example, in having employment rights guaranteed in law if large swathes of people cannot afford to enforce that right if they need to?
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InnerTemple
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(Original post by L i b)
As I understand it, the Government isn't terribly happy with how things have turned out either.

That said, the original objection still holds true: the UK spends has a budget for legal aid support many times higher than France or Germany. Even with reductions, we are nowhere near as low as our European neighbours on this.
Ah the classic “our system is the most expensive” lie. Propagated by the MOJ and still spread by the uninformed.

The MOJ compared the UK system with others (seven to be exact) which operated in a very different manner. France, for example, has an inquisitorial system. Also, in some countries, costs which would be met by legal aid in the U.K. were instead met by other departments.

Comparing our system to the a system such as the French model is pointless and misleading.

The National Audit Office compared the UK system to similar adversarial models around the world. Our system was bang on average in terms of cost. Funnily enough, the MOJ didn’t give these figure much airtime...

“The Government aren’t terribly happy with how things are working...” Well what a pity! If only people who knew the system had spoken up and warned them! Instead they were busy twisting figures to garner support for their dumb ass plans.

P.S: I’d recommend this thread for further reading. The book is brill. https://twitter.com/barristersecret/...777017856?s=21
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Fullofsurprises
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(Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
Every tory when they come into direct contact with the results of their policies.


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:lol:

I just cringed when I heard this numbnut whining on the radio - is he for real?

It's yet more proof that the Tory Party should be abolished and Tory MPs put to work on the paddy fields. Long live the Cultural Revolution! (Just kidding, but something along those lines wouldn't be a bad thing.)
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Obolinda
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Interesting
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ChaoticButterfly
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(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
:lol:

I just cringed when I heard this numbnut whining on the radio - is he for real?

It's yet more proof that the Tory Party should be abolished and Tory MPs put to work on the paddy fields. Long live the Cultural Revolution! (Just kidding, but something along those lines wouldn't be a bad thing.)
It is like when David Cameron's mother complained about cuts in his own consituency. Tory cuts are for Labour seats.
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