Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, Law, fears the government’s plan to cut criminal legal aid and introduce a system of tendering based on price could have devastating and irreversible consequences. She claims it will make access to justice available only to those who can afford it and abandon the professional lawyer-client relationship.
She said: “These proposals will make access to justice available only to those who can afford to pay for it. As we know from the experiences of people like Christopher Jefferies, anyone can find themselves arrested for the most serious of crimes. No one is immune from the prospect of arrest and prosecution.
“The current proposals abandon the professional lawyer-client relationship and treat advice as an impersonal commodity. Under the proposals, suspects and defendants will not be able to choose a legal aid lawyer but will be allocated a ‘supplier’ (to use the language of the consultation). Under this proposed tendering system, defendants could be allocated a legal aid lawyer based many miles away. If they are arrested again, they may be allocated a different ‘supplier’.
The lawyer-client relationship is at the heart of effective legal representation. It ensures the necessary trust required for the client to make full disclosure and for the lawyer to provide appropriate advice. This is especially important for the large number of vulnerable suspects and defendants who appear before the courts. Lawyers who know their clients can pre-empt difficult issues, provide (sometimes unpalatable) advice which is more likely to be accepted, and help the courts run more effectively and efficiently.
Professor Hodgson, along with a number of other senior academics researching in criminal justice, is a signatory to a letter published in The Times today. Professor Hodgson is happy to give press comment on this topic, contact her on 07815 524786, Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Press and Communications Manager, University of Warwick, email@example.com, 02476 150868, 07824 540863