Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who is Lord Carter?

I need to get to know Lord Carter, and get an audience with him.

The Lord Chancellor, Charlie Thornton, made an announcement today that as part of his fundamental review of legal aid he has assigned the task of looking in to ways to sort out an ever expanding criminal legal aid budget to Lord Carter. The report or paper, or whatever it should be called, is called A Fairer Deal for Legal Aid. This report is scathing of solicitors suggesting where possible we 'maximize' cases by identifying where money can be made and exploiting legal aid so that our cases become profitable. Quite frankly I found this report somewhat offensive, it seems to miss the point.

The total legal aid budget costs taxpayers about £2.1 billion a year, and criminal legal aid takes up the vast majority of that budget. Out of the criminal legal aid budget 50% of the funds are spent on 1% of the cases. Basically the bigger fraud cases cream off 50% of the budget leaving the remaining 50% of the budget to be spread around 99% of the cases. Richard Collins from the Legal Services Commission said several months ago that there was no overspend in legal aid on Police Station or Magistrates Court work. The Lord Chancellor is getting upset because costs in the Crown Court are out of control.

This report makes little mention of the fact that since the Labour Government were voted in to power they have toyed andmeddledd with the Criminal Justice System. There have been successive Criminal Justice Acts creating new crimes and new sentences, and even the wonderful Anti-Social Behaviour Order. The Lord Chancellor is quick to complain that solicitors are spending the legal aid budget but he makes no mention that the solicitors are alsodealingg with more cases out of the same budget - he is getting value for money in ordinary cases.

The Lord Chancellor should point the finger at the solicitors creaming off 50% of the budget for 1% of the cases and address why those cases cost so much.

Now, I would like to meet Lord Carter or at least be given an opportunity to give evidence to him about the Lord Chancellor and his fanciful ideas that I am abusing the legal aid budget. Government and Treasury officials are clearly concerned that the criminal legal aid budget increases year on year but they should not be looking at solicitors as the culprits of causing the increase, they should perhaps look down the corridors of Westminster and tell Mr. Clarke to stop thinking up ideas such as ASBOs.

Rant over.

1 comment:

DC Legal Recruiter said...

Great post! I will be mindful of this on my next job hunt.