The Legal Aid Lord Chancellor

I have said for some time that the best and most pro Legal Aid Lord Chancellor in my lifetime was Lord Mackay of Clashfern (shame on you Jack Straw). Here he goes out of his way, in the Mail on Sunday, to prove my point:

The longest-serving Tory Lord Chancellor for a century has warned that proposed legal aid cuts may cause serious damage to the justice system and increase wrongful convictions.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern told The Mail on Sunday the proposed tenders for legal aid contracts ‘should not be based on cost alone’, and he was concerned that the measures ‘do not contain robust means of ensuring standards of quality’, adding: ‘It’s very difficult to make cuts and to preserve the quality of justice at the same time.

‘Anything that damages the quality of justice creates a greater risk of miscarriages – which then create further costs for the state.’

Lord Mackay, who served for a decade under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, added that removing clients’ right to choose their own lawyer ‘could be very dangerous’. His intervention will be seen as a stunning rebuke for his successor, Chris Grayling, whose plans are fiercely opposed by lawyers and the judiciary.

Sir Anthony Hooper, who recently retired as an Appeal Court judge, said: ‘Mr Grayling is killing off our much admired system. Independent professional lawyers are the principal safeguard against the conviction of the innocent. All judges who try crime know this. Mr Grayling does not.’

Senior Tory MPs also have grave reservations. Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: ‘There has never been any mechanism in government designed to ensure standards of quality in anything which has ever worked. I am concerned that justice is being put at risk.’

However, Lord Mackay offered Mr Grayling a lifeline, saying that instead of railroading his plans through without parliamentary debate, he should ‘sit down’ with lawyers’ leaders to work out other means of saving the £220 million the Treasury wants to cut from his budget. One way, he said, would be to charge convicted defendants court costs, which could raise £120 million a year.

Plus the “New Face of British Justice”

About Author: SP

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