Lies and Statistics

The e-petition, which will force a Parliamentary debate over the “Transforming Legal Aid” proposals, is now close to the 100K target. If you know anyone who has not signed, give them a gentle shove.

Earlier in the month I linked to an article on the subject by a non-lawyer

Amongst his conclusions was the following

“They privilege anecdote over evidence and ignore research”.

This is undoubtedly true, never more so than when considering the Ministries tawdry and increasingly desperate press campaign. This has relied upon and regularly repeated three main themes:

Fat Cat Lawyers, Legal Aid spiralling out of control and a huge waste on big cases involving unworthy defendants.

Over the life of the petition, official statistics published by his own department have thrown light these 3 pillars.

Fat Cat Lawyers

Contrary to the MoJ promoted myth we have learned that the average Duty Solicitor salary is around £25K not the 6 figure sums quoted in the Daily Mail.

We also learned that Chris Grayling seemingly employs a “fat cat senior secretary” on a salary of £37,500. She also happens to be his wife.

In addition he has suggested that no publicly funded barrister should earn more than the PM. Now the actual totality of the PM earnings are subject to some debate (ably dissected here) however his basic salary is £142K.

We now know that this is £3k less than received by the two highest paid members of the LAA, or “fat cat civil servants” as we must now be obliged to call them.(Table H, Page 36 of the Annual Report available here)

Spiralling Out of Control

Alongside yesterdays accounts came the annual analysis of Legal Aid Statistics (HT Crimeline). I have picked 3 paragraphs from the executive summary

In 2012/13 the Legal Services Commission (LSC) provided almost 2.3 million acts of assistance, a decrease of 8 per cent compared to the previous year. The number of acts of assistance were at their highest in 2009/10 as show in Figure 1 below. Since this peak the volume has fallen by just over 20 per cent; within this reduction the criminal legal aid area has reduced by just over 10 per cent with the majority of the fall coming from the civil justice area.

The LSC spent just over £1.9 billion on funding advice for criminal and civil legal matters to provide the 2.3 million acts of assistance. Following the trend in acts of assistance the total expenditure on legal aid was also at its highest level in 2009/10, this increasing trend has subsequently been reversed with a year on year reduction of 4 per cent and an overall reduction from 2009/10 of 14 per cent.

Since 2007/08 there has been a 30 per cent fall in civil providers and a similar fall of 12 per cent in criminal providers under contract (23 per cent in total). This is an average 5 per cent reduction in the number of contracted legal aid providers each year over the past 6 years.

Waste on High Cost Cases

A single sentence from the same statistics is all that is required.

Total spend on VHCC in 2012/13 was £68m a reduction of 26 per cent compared to the previous year.

We anticipated a press campaign based on these lies last November. We even got some retaliation in first. Consequently it will be good to see Grayling and his team challenged on this willful misrepresentation of the truth in Parliament when 100K signatures are reached.

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