The topic of legal aid cuts has recently caught my attention for a variety of reasons. As I plan to pursue a career in law I was surprised by the notion that democracy is being sacrificed in the pursuit of legal aid cuts. The cuts again only hurt a certain group of individuals, and this once again is the poor (are you really surprised?).
So for those who are not aware, the government has proposed legislation that will cut the amount of legal aid individuals will receive. This means that defendants will have little choice about who represents them in court. The areas that will be hit the hardest are divorce, welfare benefits, clinical negligence and employment.
This not only affects the defendants, lawyers will suffer also. Junior lawyers will be earning as little as £14 a day, which is below the minimum wage. This figure will put many off from pursuing a career in criminal law, limiting future talent. Furthermore, vulnerable groups such as women, young people and ethnic minorities will suffer under these cuts. This is because many will not be able to afford legal advice; in turn affecting justice. For example, high profile cases such as the Stephen Lawrence case would not have been taken up if the cuts were put in place at that time. The lawyer of the Lawrence family, Imran Khan, warns against the harmful effects these cuts will have on the BME community.
The main issue is that legal aid cuts limits the choice which people have for lawyers and hinders fairness to a great extent. It is becoming tiresome that the government chooses to pick on those who cannot defend themselves while big companies get away with millions worth of tax evasion. Recent reports show that 500,000 Britons are relying on a food banks and more and more Britons are not able to keep are roof over their head. If David Cameron believes that this round of cuts is benefiting everyone, he is wrong. Everyone should have the right to choose a lawyer to represent them in the best way; they should not merely be given a lawyer who can perform for the cheapest.
Our justice system is one of the most respected and revered systems in the world, and that is because justice has always been at the core of our beliefs. There should not be a price tag on justice and the Conservative government need to understand this. Saving money should not be put before justice. The introduction of the system will hit marginalised groups the hardest and lead to a less diverse legal profession. David Cameron knows the effects that this reform has the potential to cause, and he still continues to stick by it. This not only shows the destructive agenda of the Conservatives, but it also amplifies the priorities that this government has, priorities which continue to threaten our justice system.
By Mems Ayinla