Lawyers warn of impact of legal aid cuts

Solicitor Raj Kumar who is concerned about the number of legal aid cases being rejected

Solicitor Raj Kumar who is concerned about the number of legal aid cases being rejected

First published in News

Solicitors in Bradford have voiced fears that vulnerable defendants in criminal cases might not get justice because legal aid applications are being refused.

Lawyers in the city say there has been a big increase in the number of refusals in recent months, meaning solicitors are often not getting paid for representing clients, and in some cases defendants are having to represent themselves.

Solicitor Raj Kumar, who has a practice in Eldon Place, Bradford, said he was having as many as four out of five legal aid applications turned down by court administrators on the grounds of not being in the interests of justice.

Mr Kumar said: "The Magistrates court and/or the Legal Aid Agency, by refusing legal aid on the grounds given are affecting the victims of crime by minimising the seriousness of offences, and on the other hand the defendants who are facing the prospect of custody and having their future damaged by a conviction are being denied the legal aid representation.

"Some members of the public are not getting justice."

Criminal defendants have to pass a means test and an interests of justice test to be granted aid for legal representation. It allows for vulnerable people, who may have mental health or language difficulties and could be facing a custodial sentence, to be represented in court by a solicitor.

But Mr Kumar said applications were being refused on the grounds that custody was not likely.

He said one client on legal aid was given a conditional discharge after his fifth conviction for shop theft. But when he breached the order by committing a sixth offence, legal aid was refused. The same happened to a woman who had been given a conditional damage for criminal damage and breached it with a similar offence against the same complainant.

Mr Kumar said: "In both cases my clients were more likely to go into custody than on the previous occasion, but legal aid was refused. It is not fair and gives a poor message to the public. I believe they are cutting legal aid through the back door."

Fellow solicitor Keith Blackwell, who is based in Keighley, said: "Far more applications are being refused. It means that some defendants are having to go unrepresented. In some cases where custody may not be likely, the defendants still face a loss of reputation and in some cases there needs to be specialist knowledge or medical evidence.

"The public probably does not realise the extent to which legal aid has become limited. Everybody who becomes the subject of a charge should be concerned that they are going to be inadequately represented."

Mr Blackwell added: "Lawyers are regularly working for nothing. Nobody is going to have sympathy for us, but there are no fat cat lawyers in Bradford - not even a fat kitten."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "There have been no recent changes to the Interests of Justice test, which is used to help determine whether legal aid is granted in criminal cases.

"Whenever someone is likely to go to jail if convicted, legal aid will generally be made available, subject to a means test.

"Anybody who is refused criminal legal aid because they do not satisfy the Interests of Justice can have that decision reviewed and can also appeal directly to the court."

Comments (12)

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7:34am Mon 7 Jul 14

OLDLAD says...

Mr Kumar said: But when he breached the order by committing a sixth offence, legal aid was refused. Why is this serial criminal getting legal aid at all after five previous convictions? How much legal aid did the solicitors acting for him get? Seems like a gravy train to me. Pay legal aid once then for any future offences they pay/represent themselves. Why should tax payers money be used for serial criminals to avoid puishment, because at the end of the day that's what they are trying to achieve.
Mr Kumar said: But when he breached the order by committing a sixth offence, legal aid was refused. Why is this serial criminal getting legal aid at all after five previous convictions? How much legal aid did the solicitors acting for him get? Seems like a gravy train to me. Pay legal aid once then for any future offences they pay/represent themselves. Why should tax payers money be used for serial criminals to avoid puishment, because at the end of the day that's what they are trying to achieve. OLDLAD
  • Score: 15

7:50am Mon 7 Jul 14

mad matt says...

Seems like a gravy train to me as well - if these solicitors and barristers weren't so greedy with their fees, there would be enough money for anybody to get legal aid whenever they needed it.
In other words, we are getting well ripped off by the very people who are supposedly there to protect us!
Seems like a gravy train to me as well - if these solicitors and barristers weren't so greedy with their fees, there would be enough money for anybody to get legal aid whenever they needed it. In other words, we are getting well ripped off by the very people who are supposedly there to protect us! mad matt
  • Score: 11

8:13am Mon 7 Jul 14

bd7 helper says...

Stop lying for criminals, don't make excuses up.
Stop lying for criminals, don't make excuses up. bd7 helper
  • Score: 12

8:14am Mon 7 Jul 14

bd7 helper says...

If he keeps on re-offending are you telling him. To keep you in a job?
If he keeps on re-offending are you telling him. To keep you in a job? bd7 helper
  • Score: 13

9:34am Mon 7 Jul 14

BierleyBoy says...

As above. The closed loop that is the legal industry seeing it's gravy train hitting the buffers.

Probably have to switch sides and start acting for the victims on CFA's. Poor loves.
As above. The closed loop that is the legal industry seeing it's gravy train hitting the buffers. Probably have to switch sides and start acting for the victims on CFA's. Poor loves. BierleyBoy
  • Score: 4

9:49am Mon 7 Jul 14

Harrogate2011 says...

I conur with the majority repetitive criminals should know better. We have seen that in civil it is impossible to obtain any legal representation at least criminals do have access to some form of legal representation. It appears that habitual criminals should be means tested which again is fair and just. The solicitors are just looking after their own financial interests at the expense of the public purse which one cannot blame them as any restrictions imposed with have a financial detriement on their earnings
I conur with the majority repetitive criminals should know better. We have seen that in civil it is impossible to obtain any legal representation at least criminals do have access to some form of legal representation. It appears that habitual criminals should be means tested which again is fair and just. The solicitors are just looking after their own financial interests at the expense of the public purse which one cannot blame them as any restrictions imposed with have a financial detriement on their earnings Harrogate2011
  • Score: 10

9:59am Mon 7 Jul 14

Harrogate2011 says...

I conur with the majority repetitive criminals should know better. We have seen that in civil matters it is impossible to obtain any legal representation at least criminals do have access to some form of legal representation. It appears that habitual criminals should be means tested which again is fair and just. The solicitors are just looking after their own financial interests at the expense of the public purse which one cannot blame them as any restrictions imposed with have a financial detriement on their earnings
I conur with the majority repetitive criminals should know better. We have seen that in civil matters it is impossible to obtain any legal representation at least criminals do have access to some form of legal representation. It appears that habitual criminals should be means tested which again is fair and just. The solicitors are just looking after their own financial interests at the expense of the public purse which one cannot blame them as any restrictions imposed with have a financial detriement on their earnings Harrogate2011
  • Score: 3

2:53pm Mon 7 Jul 14

bonoforpm says...

Is this guy for real or is it an early April Fool prank ?

In which universe is it the taxpayers responsibility to fund the lifestyle of career criminals by helping them to stay out of jail so that they can commit even more crime.

If they are too stupid to take fair warning then they don't deserve any defence at all.

If this guy is as crazy as he sounds I'm surprised he is not a councillor or an MP.
Is this guy for real or is it an early April Fool prank ? In which universe is it the taxpayers responsibility to fund the lifestyle of career criminals by helping them to stay out of jail so that they can commit even more crime. If they are too stupid to take fair warning then they don't deserve any defence at all. If this guy is as crazy as he sounds I'm surprised he is not a councillor or an MP. bonoforpm
  • Score: 6

3:14pm Mon 7 Jul 14

Terrence987 says...

The fact is that these people commit offences in the main to feed a drug or alcohol addiction. Because they are regularly committing offences, they are obviously going to be at risk of going to prison.
On the other hand, there are also innocent individuals charged with offences who require a lawyer. They should also be entitled to one if it passes the interests of justice test rather than be left to deal with complex questions of law themselves.
I'm genuinely shocked at the majority of the above comments. I guess your views might change if you were charged with an offence you were not guilty of and required a lawyer
The fact is that these people commit offences in the main to feed a drug or alcohol addiction. Because they are regularly committing offences, they are obviously going to be at risk of going to prison. On the other hand, there are also innocent individuals charged with offences who require a lawyer. They should also be entitled to one if it passes the interests of justice test rather than be left to deal with complex questions of law themselves. I'm genuinely shocked at the majority of the above comments. I guess your views might change if you were charged with an offence you were not guilty of and required a lawyer Terrence987
  • Score: -5

3:26pm Mon 7 Jul 14

vikksy says...

Terrence987 wrote:
The fact is that these people commit offences in the main to feed a drug or alcohol addiction. Because they are regularly committing offences, they are obviously going to be at risk of going to prison.
On the other hand, there are also innocent individuals charged with offences who require a lawyer. They should also be entitled to one if it passes the interests of justice test rather than be left to deal with complex questions of law themselves.
I'm genuinely shocked at the majority of the above comments. I guess your views might change if you were charged with an offence you were not guilty of and required a lawyer
This is actually true.I'm sure there are several cases that have gone through courts of innocent people charged by over zealous policing
[quote][p][bold]Terrence987[/bold] wrote: The fact is that these people commit offences in the main to feed a drug or alcohol addiction. Because they are regularly committing offences, they are obviously going to be at risk of going to prison. On the other hand, there are also innocent individuals charged with offences who require a lawyer. They should also be entitled to one if it passes the interests of justice test rather than be left to deal with complex questions of law themselves. I'm genuinely shocked at the majority of the above comments. I guess your views might change if you were charged with an offence you were not guilty of and required a lawyer[/p][/quote]This is actually true.I'm sure there are several cases that have gone through courts of innocent people charged by over zealous policing vikksy
  • Score: 0

12:30pm Tue 8 Jul 14

BILLTILL says...

A freedom of information request should be done to see how much this company is making from legal aid each year ,there may lie the real truth
A freedom of information request should be done to see how much this company is making from legal aid each year ,there may lie the real truth BILLTILL
  • Score: 1

9:38pm Fri 11 Jul 14

Cockerel says...

This guy must really live in Cloud cuckoo land. He expects the readers of this paper, the hard working general public, to sympathise with him that he will have to forego his second bottle of Moët Chandon of an evening! Let's get real - solicitors/barrister
s have been milking the public for far too long and, it appears, common sense is prevailing and the tap that has previously haemorrhaged gravy has turned clockwise for the good.

I'm no legal expert but I'm sure there are avenues of appeal to the higher courts should somebody be refused legal aid and they have a genuine grievance. Why is this guy not taking this to the higher courts? I'll tell you why, he would be shot down in flames by old Rumpole and told to spend less time posing in the local rag spouting nonsense and more time reading the law. This just beggars belief.
This guy must really live in Cloud cuckoo land. He expects the readers of this paper, the hard working general public, to sympathise with him that he will have to forego his second bottle of Moët Chandon of an evening! Let's get real - solicitors/barrister s have been milking the public for far too long and, it appears, common sense is prevailing and the tap that has previously haemorrhaged gravy has turned clockwise for the good. I'm no legal expert but I'm sure there are avenues of appeal to the higher courts should somebody be refused legal aid and they have a genuine grievance. Why is this guy not taking this to the higher courts? I'll tell you why, he would be shot down in flames by old Rumpole and told to spend less time posing in the local rag spouting nonsense and more time reading the law. This just beggars belief. Cockerel
  • Score: 2

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