THE Coalition’s ‘Justice Secretary’ Chris Grayling plans to make further savage cuts in the £2bn legal aid bill in England and Wales, to make sure that what ‘justice’ is available under capitalism is only for those with money.
A consultation on more cost-cutting in criminal cases will start in April.
The plans are to include introducing price competition in what is being called the criminal legal aid market.
The announcement of the stepping up of the class war against legal aid comes directly after the warning by Supreme Court President, Lord Neuberger, that the already approved cuts to legal aid in civil cases may restrict access to ‘justice’, and may result in people seeking justice by more forcible means outside the courts.
‘Savings’ of up to £350m have already been earmarked by removing legal aid for a range of cases including those involving social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems.
But this attack on working people is not savage enough for Grayling. He states that ‘Criminal defence represents by far the largest element of our remaining legal aid spend, where we are still spending over £1bn a year.’
He added: ‘We are working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts.
‘We also need to look again at ensuring that defendants who can afford to contribute to their legal costs do so and that the legal aid system commands the confidence of the public.’
Rubbish! He is looking to a situation where the rich can purchase ‘justice’ while those not up to paying the outrageous fees of the legal profession will have to plead guilty and throw themselves on the ‘tender mercies’ of the judiciary, or else go through the charade of ‘defending themselves’ against legal mercenaries.
He is looking to reduce the legal aid bill down to about £300 million by making further gigantic cuts.
Steps that have already been taken include ‘strengthening the effectiveness of the Crown Court means-testing scheme’. This means that from July 2013 a defendant’s car will be seized and sold, if convicted, to help recoup legal costs.
No doubt Grayling has now got people’s homes and all their personal possessions in his sights.
Speaking in the House of Commons, at the start of the process, former justice secretary Kenneth Clarke said civil legal aid would only be routinely available in cases where life or liberty was at stake.
Funding for a wide range of disputes, including some divorce cases and clinical negligence have already been been axed.
It is estimated that there will be 500,000 fewer civil cases because of these already introduced measures.
Now Grayling wants to cut even more to carry out Clarke’s programme ‘of going back to first principles in reforming legal aid’ – ie completely abolishing it, as far as the working class and the middle class are concerned.
Clarke’s position was: ‘It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door, were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying.
‘I propose to introduce a more targeted civil and family scheme which will discourage people from resorting to lawyers whenever they face a problem, and instead encourage them to consider more suitable methods of dispute resolution.’
For most divorcing couples this diktat has already meant that they either mediate, or represent themselves in court, or find some other way to resolve their differences.
Those involved in a raft of other civil claims, including clinical negligence, already have to find alternative means of funding.
Now legal aid in its entirety is to be axed, returning bourgeois justice to just another commodity to be bought and sold in the market place – by those who have the cash to do so.
Justice is revealed to be another function of the commodity process.