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Musings on Chris Graylings justifications for legal aid reform proposals

May 12, 2013

From the ministerial forward to the 2013 consultation document

“Under the previous government, the cost of the system spiralled out of control, and it became one of the most costly in the world”

The 2010 consultation document (http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm79/7967/7967.pdf) contradicts this statement in the following ways

1. Kenneth Clark pointed out in the Ministerial Forward that since 2006

“successive changes have managed to contain the growth in overall spending”. The expression “successive changes” referred to the “many attempts to reform the system by previous administrations”

2. Paragraph 3.40 pointed out that since 2003–04, the increase in legal aid spending had been contained, and the overall cost of legal aid had fallen by around 11% in real terms.

3. Paragraph 3.42 of the 2010 consultation document explains the folly of relying on international comparisons to justify reducing costs in the following way…

“Making international comparisons is complicated by differences in data collection methods and definitions. Costs in our justice system are distributed differently to those in other jurisdictions. A more inquisitorial style system is likely to spend more on inquisitors and the court process, and less on legal aid; and expenditure may be categorised under different budgets.

I would add that in a system of graduated set fees for advocacy it is impossible for those fees to be responsible for any spiralling costs. To reduce the fees and to introduce a taper from day 3 is an unwarranted measure. Furthermore it can not be justified by relying on the fact that a taper already applies to cases lasting over 40 days because that taper is likewise unjustified and has itself been forced on advocates.

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