Bar Council Calls for Action in Wake of MP Report on MoJ Finances
20 March 2012
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and
Wales, has welcomed the findings of a report by the House of
Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the financial
management of the Ministry of Justice, which raises serious
concerns about a number of areas of saving and expenditure.
The report, published today, confirms the Bar's concerns that
the MoJ's impact assessment of its proposed changes to legal aid
does not quantify the full impact of the cuts, and reports that the
amount owed to the Government under confiscation orders has
increased dramatically to £1.25bn, 60 per cent of which may never
Stephen Cobb QC, Chairman of the Bar Council's
working group on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of
Offenders Bill, said:
"The Public Accounts Committee has today reported that the MoJ
'has not identified the behaviour changes which may arise from the
new legal aid arrangements', confirming the Bar's fears that the
Government has not fully examined the potential for these cuts to
end up costing more than they save.
"These concerns have been echoed by many MPs, Peers and senior
members of the judiciary, who have warned that the inevitable
influx of self-representing litigants will clog up the courts and
cause considerable delays and associated costs to the public purse.
We urge the Government to consider in greater detail the likely
impact of these short-sighted cuts.
"The report also emphasises the full amount outstanding in
unpaid confiscation orders, which is more than triple that of the
savings which the Government is seeking to make by cutting legal
aid from the most vulnerable members of society.
"At the same time, despite the Bar's tireless campaign for
restrained assets to be unfrozen to allow wealthy criminal
defendants to pay their own legal fees, the Government continues to
squander its limited funds on legal aid for these individuals, in
the hope that some of the funds may be recouped later via
confiscation orders. These figures must surely put beyond doubt the
need to address this scandal at the earliest opportunity."
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact the Bar
Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525.
2. The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts today
publishes its 75th report of this session, "Ministry of Justice
Financial Management", which can be accessed here.
3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales.
• The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory
• Fair access to justice for all
• The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across
the profession, and
• The development of business opportunities for barristers at home
The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the
Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions
through the independent Bar Standards Board.