Legal aid cuts threaten our democracy

Last week I was asked whether BHT could add its name to a letter that was published in the Guardian, ‘Legal aid cuts threaten our very democracy’. For the reasons I mentioned on this blog yesterday, I remained silent, much to my shame. My reason for doing so was not because of any doubts as to the merits and importance of the issues raised, but because much of the associated coverage had a party political bias (not that I think Labour in government has anything to boast about regarding its track record on legal aid).

The letter itself was signed by former Lord Justices of Appeal, eminent barristers, academics and members of the House of Lords as well as many other leading figures within psychiatry, psychology, law and related fields.

The letter ended: “We call upon the next government to abandon the highly controversial restructuring of criminal defence, restore legal help to the many currently without redress and to establish a royal commission to investigate the current crisis regarding the diminution of access to justice. In addition we call for an independent body to review legal aid rates, including expert witness rates so as to depoliticise them and instead move to an evidence-based approach to ensure public need is adequately met in the provision of legal services.”

I fully endorse this call.

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