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 here

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 here.

I also published our core case, which outlines the key points of our response to the consultation paper, which you can find here

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 issues.

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