It was only last month that cuts to legal aid in regard to deportation cases were confirmed to be unlawful. The court of appeal ruled that legal aid funding should be made available for those fighting deportation. For those who are counting that made the seventeenth ruling against Chris Grayling, the current justice secretary, in the recent judicial reviews.
This followed a series of cases where the legal aid threshold was found to have been set too high and therefore would lead to unfairness by preventing funding for exceptional cases. When asked for his opinion shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter stated, like many, that he believed the legal aid cuts were 'rushed through'.
Indeed it is no secret that the solicitors and barristers are vehemently opposed to the cuts, staging many protests and marches in the belief that the cuts, among other things, will be a major blow to the fundamental right to access to justice. The Ministry of Justice however has defended itself by repeating its well rehearsed line regarding the state of the economy and the dire need to save money across all sectors. The Ministry has maintained, however, that the legal profession was engaged in consultations for years before the cuts were enacted.
Despite this judicial reviews have been launched by the Law Society and London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association in regard to the number of legal aid contracts that have been cut from the criminal law sector. Many were expecting a judgement by the end of this month; however it is now looking unlikely.
Lord Justice Laws admitted that the judgement was sensitive to time pressure but stated that he was undertaking other criminal appeals. Lord Justice Laws stated that the judges would 'do the best' they could. However even if the judgement should go against them it is doubtful that this will put the legal aid discussion to rest as CLSA chairman Bill Waddington has declared his intention to fight any judgement against them. Mr Waddington maintains that in order to preserve citizen's rights stemming from the Magna Carta that the principles of access to justice and equality must be fought for.
It is true that the economic climate is one of a great complexity and no solution will be to the benefit of all, but the sacrifice of justice and equality still seems a very high price to pay to help balance one government's budget. The coalition government will most likely not be here next year, the justice system (hopefully) will be. #Parliament