New cuts to legal aid proposed by Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling, are set to seriously affect criminal legal aid cover.
The MoJ has proposed a saving of £220m through cuts of 17.5% in fees paid for legal aid.
The reforms directly attack a typical UK household, with an average disposable income of £3,000 per month, who will no longer be entitled to legal aid.
Furthermore, Grayling has also slashed legal aid entitlement to prisoners – including children – and immigrants who have lived in the country for less than a year are unable to access aid in civil cases which could include people trafficked into the UK sex trade.
The announcement to MPs saw Grayling step back from a controversial plan to introduce a price competitive tendering system, which would have seen law firms compete on a lowest-price basis.
Paula Porter, head of criminal law at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “A 17.5% cut based on no new evidence is savage and may make the government’s belated acceptance of the importance of quality meaningless as many firms may be unwilling or unable to offer high quality criminal legal aid cover at these rates.
“The financial eligibility threshold of £37,500 in the Crown Court for joint incomes is precariously close to the average household income for teachers, paramedics and police officers. The aim is to exclude the rich from Legal Aid. These hardworking professionals aren’t rich. The salary figures are arbitrary and it looks like another ill thought out government attack on already squeezed middle earners. We face the prospect of false allegations forcing a teacher or a midwife and their families into hock to prove their innocence.”
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