Friday, June 17, 2005


I rarely read Hansard because it usually involves people talking about issues that they actually know nothing about - afterall there is very low public trust in members of Parliament. My attention was drawn to a particular debate held in the House of Lords and recorded in Hansard over the weekend. Yesterday I looked up the debate as it was talking about the Criminal Defence Service Bill (new legislation to reintroduce means testing for criminal legal aid i.e. if you can pay for your own solicitor you will have to).

I read what I considered to be very unfair comments made by Baroness Ashton a Minister of Constitutional Affairs or was is Legal Aid? They were talking about the rise of the criminal legal aid budget and talking about solicitors basically taking everyone for a ride with long trials. I then read some excellent replies to these comments where various peers slated the Government for its uncontrollable wave of criminal justice legislation that increases costs in criminal cases. A few of the peers responding even threw in a few comments about the sad state of affairs for barristers fees.

The real point about the debate was that everyone, including myself (and I think most of the legal profession) all think that people who can afford to pay for a solicitor should pay, and that the legal aid budget should be reserved for deserving cases. All the peers that spoke up in the debate agreed that means testing was a good idea and the Criminal Defence Service Bill is unlikely to be opposed in it's passage to reach the statute book. What the debate seemed to be about was taking a pop at the Government for the mess it has made of the legal side if the criminal justice system.

If Hansard was always this interesting I might read it more often.

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