Labour MP for West Ham Lyn Brown shares her view on the changes to legal aid
- Credit: Archant
Towards the end of the Parliamentary session, people wrote asking me to speak out against changes to Legal Aid.
I spoke of a 12-year-old boy excluded from school. He stopped going to the Pupil Referral Unit because it was in a local gang’s area and he was scared. For two years he received no education.
His mother’s repeated attempts to get him settled back in school were all thwarted. Only when a date was set for a judicial review did the local authority work out a package enabling him to attend a local college.
The threat of a judicial review, and a competent lawyer, sorted things out. The government’s proposed changes would mean this case would not be funded because it was settled before going to court.
The perverse effect of the changes are that the stronger your case, the less chance you have of getting Legal Aid. So, if you can’t afford a good lawyer, you have little chance of getting justice.
The government says they will save £1m and, even if we accept the government’s sums, it is clear those “savings” guarantee costs elsewhere.
This young lad lost two years of education. His mother was threatened with court action due to her son’s non-attendance. Taking her to court would have cost tax-payers money – to what end? Fine mum and, doubtless, the boy would still continue to truant.
- 1 Man suffers leg wound in Beckton stabbing
- 2 Ex-nurse laid decomposing 'on display' after Met Police searches missed body in flat
- 3 Leyton Orient claim second successive League Two win at Crawley
- 4 Jailed: Eight east London offenders locked up in July
- 5 Coroner slams 'scandalous' failures after woman laid dead for two years
- 6 Motorist who 'appeared to be driving at other vehicles' in Essex arrested
- 7 Man arrested and bailed as Custom House stabbing victim recovers
- 8 Leyton Orient 'got away with one' at Crawley says Wellens
- 9 'Hello Mum' - WhatsApp scammers posing as children steal over £1.5m
- 10 'Extremely hard': Mum donates Isla Caton's toys in act of kindness so 'her legacy lives on'
The availability of Legal Aid gave this young lad his education back and now he’s doing well. What of the cost to the taxpayer if he had got no qualifications and was unable to get a job? What price a life on the dole, or worse, a life inside due to petty criminal offences?
I know savings must be found across the justice system. Those able to pay legal fees should. I support using the frozen assets of criminals to fund their legal costs. We should also address the problem of very high cost cases.
But these proposals are simply wrong. It’s already too easy for the powerful to hide behind the high price of justice. The government’s proposals victimise society’s most vulnerable.