Legal aid is clearly a target for further cuts. The proposed executive agency under the MoJ makes it even more subject to ministerial control and inevitably an easier candidate for cost cutting.
The current spend is about £2bn p.a but what is not well known is that almost half gets spent on a mere five percent of court cases. The magistrates courts, well known to readers of the Magistrate's Blog, account for 95% of criminal prosecutions yet incur about 55% of the £2bn. The rest is spent on long, high profile trials in the higher courts. 5% of the cases gets 45% of the spend.
So what happens in the magistrates' court is that we have to spend more time to assist the unrepresented defendant, slowing down the courts and adding expense. If ever there was a case for a proper cost benefit analysis, this is it. And just in case the bureaucrat who did it last time reads this, please allocate some element of a cost to the time attributed to the magistrates themselves as well as the court. Even though the mags cost little, we do deserve to be considered!
(Learner is a long-standing friend who has been a JP for over thirty years)
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