Friday, May 27, 2005

£40,000 A Week And Still On Legal Aid

It has recently been well reported that El-Hadji Diouf has been granted legal aid to deal with his case at Teesside Magistrates Court. This chap is a footballer earning £40,000 a week.

I am struggling to see why this footballer has been granted a representation order, and I accept that I am a little ignorant of the full details of the case. It has been suggested to me that he has been granted a representation order on the basis that a football banning order may be made. How ridiculous is that suggestion? I cannot see a Magistrates Court ever banning a professional footballer from a single or multiple football ground because football banning orders were not meant to deal with incidents on the pitch. Also I think that there are some fundamental human rights issues at stake if the chap is then given a sentence which denies him the ability to work in his profession.

Back to the point: if this man is on wages of £40,000 per week why has he opted to be represented on the basis of legal aid? There is currently no bar on a representation order being granted on the basis of means - this is due to change in the near future. Every solicitor should advise Clients on the availability of legal aid, and perhaps that is what has happened with this case? Who knows?

I would expect that the footballer is going to require a good level of service and his case will come attached with media hype and interest. What on earth is the solicitor instructed in this case doing? Why has he not advised on the availability of legal aid, then reinforced the moral point that those who can for their own case should (after all if he is acquitted he will get that money back), and then suggest that he would get a better service without legal aid as he could then spend hours of time on the case doing excessive amounts of work that the Legal Services Commission would consider to be unnecessary for the purposes of legal aid. For example the solicitor could instruct an expert on behaviour, or the effect of a crowd on the way in which someone reacts, these reports would be considered unnecessary if legal aid were being used.

I do not know the solicitor who has been instructed to deal with this case but I consider him to be mad. Mr. Diouf could probably use a weeks wages to employ a solicitor to work on his case for an entire year if he paid privately. This case seems to me to be a waste of public funds.


Law Student said...

I agree with you, Gavin, and what an injustice. Such a person would be ineligible in a civil matter. Why should it be ok when it's a criminal matter? Whilst the solicitor with conduct is making a lower hourly rate, it simply drives up the budget for the CDS because as you quite rightly point out, the costs will be excessive. I must say the mind reels.

Gavin said...

They will be changing the system soon so there will be no more abuse of the system where people can afford to pay for their own defence.