Birmingham Post Legal Column
13 February 2014
BY MARTIN ALLSOPP
On the 11th February, MPs met in London to discuss the Government’s proposed cuts to the Legal Aid budget. It’s a contentious issue that has been met with widespread disapproval from the legal community.
The cuts threaten the closure of hundreds of firms of solicitors nationwide, while barristers face bankruptcy. In January, barristers took to the streets of Birmingham in protest to the cuts; such was the level of their anger at the proposals.
And it’s not just the legal sector the cuts will affect. For the public, the scope and quality of service lawyers provide will be significantly reduced.
It is good that MPs have met to discuss the issue, but from the messages I have received to date from local MPs, I don’t believe they fully appreciate the impact the Legal Aid cuts could have on the public, never mind the legal profession.
Where do the public go for assistance if there are no specialist lawyers to help? Doctors funded by the NHS are always on hand to assist with health problems but legal problems are apparently deemed unworthy of a substantive financial solution.
The Government’s own appointed Solicitors Regulation Authority has power, which it has recently exercised to close down firms who “do not run their practice in a business-like manner” when they are perceived to run at a loss.
The legal profession will always attempt to defend the principle of access to justice to all and not only to those who can afford it. This is an ethical and moral principle but ethics and morals do not pay wages.
Admittedly, it is those plying their trade in the area of criminal law who these cuts will affect the most. Those practising commercial law will be largely unaffected. However, that should not stop us from supporting our colleagues and standing up for what is right. After all, justice is justice.