Andrew Langdon QC writes in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/04/legal-aid-uk-reputation-fairness?CMP=twt_gu of the effects on our system of justice generally:
‘… Chris Grayling MP, was proud to boast: “In Britain we have a justice system of which we can be proud, and which justly deserves its worldwide recognition for impartiality and fairness.”
‘Barristers agree because, whether we stand inside or outside the Rolls Building [he was writing of the plush commercial court there], as we are fond of saying nowadays, we are one bar. That is not merely an empathetic slogan. The cuts to legal aid have generated a sharp reaction from barristers whose work is not funded by legal aid. Six of the country’s specialist bar associations – the Chancery Bar, the Commercial Bar, the London Common Law Bar, the Technology and Construction Bar, the Family Bar and the Property Bar Associations – have spoken out; the six leading QCs who chair them signed a letter to Mr Grayling, which has recently been released. It must have made unhappy reading for him.
‘They explain that the £4bn invisible export earnings for the taxpayer “depend fundamentally on the high reputation of the country’s justice system. If the reputation of the justice system is publicly damaged, the harm may not be restricted to the domestic environment or limited to the criminal justice system.’
Two points arise from that:
- Yes, I suspect that in general we are quite good at justice. OK I’m English, and a lawyer, so I would say that; but it goes much deeper into things in our way of life – essentially a sense of fairness – which genuinely and widely admired.
- Legal aid, and what is happening to it, undercuts fairness. It will skew our justice system, The very existence of legal aid, proved our sense of fairness: that everyone, if unable to afford a lawyer, should have a fair crack of whip. Its loss proves the regressive approach of our present Government.
Certain aspects of what we take for granted and the fairness we pride ourself on is reduced and our society impoverished by what Grayling, Hughes and co are doing.