Update from the Chairman: Don't believe everything you read. The public values legal aid. We need to fight to save it.
21 May 2013
The deadline for consultation responses is fast approaching. Our
arguments are gaining traction and there are plenty of things we
can all do to help advance them further.
For years, successive governments have sought to undermine
public confidence in the legal aid system. They have picked a
handful of exceptional cases and tried to use them to paint a
picture of a bloated, greedy system, which the public resents. We
have always known that doesn't represent the system we have all
been working in for years. The Government's consultation paper
tells us that the public has lost faith in the legal aid system. We
can now prove that that is not true.
Today, we are releasing research that shows that a large
majority of the public believes that our legal aid system is good
value for money and they're worried that vulnerable people will
suffer the most from cuts.
A ComRes poll, commissioned by the Bar Council, shows that 7 out
of 10 (71%) of the British public are concerned that cuts to legal
aid could lead to innocent people being convicted of crimes they
did not commit. The poll also shows that two-thirds (67%) of the
British public agree that legal aid is a price worth paying for
living in a fair society.
And it is the poorest who will be hit hardest by the proposed
changes, according to 75% of those polled.
You can read the poll in full
here and the press release which we published earlier today
I recently called on all members of the Bar to write to their
MPs and suggested the types of things they might ask their elected
representatives to do
I also published our core case, which outlines the key points of
our response to the consultation paper, which you can find
The polling data adds even more weight to our case, which
promotes a justice system working in the public interest, admired
all over the world.
The petition we started with campaigning group 38 degrees now
has over 9,000 signatures. If you have not yet signed it, please
take a moment to do so - here. And please sign the ePetition which calls
for a Parliamentary debate on the proposals, which you can find here.
There is unity across the legal profession on these issues, and
we have also joined with organisations like Shelter to draw
attention to the significant changes to access to justice in civil
The message is clear - this is not about lawyers - this could
affect anyone. The system belongs to all of us and we need to fight
to save it.
Write to your MP, respond to the consultation, tell your local
newspapers and radio what is happening to the justice system which
we all value so much.
We all have a part to play.
Maura McGowan QC
Chairman of the Bar