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Cuts to UK Legal Aid – Miscarriage of Justice?

The annual European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice report published on the 8th October 2014 shows that the UK spends £2billion a year on Legal Aid. This figure is 20 times the European average and has resulted in the Government implementing controversial reforms to cut this figure in an attempt to reduce public spending. 

The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has been criticised by the legal profession for the plan to cut legal aid by £215 million by 2018-19. It should be noted that Britain has 186,000 lawyers and legal advisors, one of the largest number of lawyers compared to size in Europe. Additionally these professionals are among the highest paid, the UK’s £2billion (€2.6billion) legal aid budget compared with France’s £290million (€367 million) and Germany’s £272 million (€345 million). 

However, Andrew Caplen, the Law Society President argues that: ““The inquisitorial system used in Europe means that the cost of investigations falls more on judges’ budgets than lawyers and so countries’ systems cannot be compared like for like.”

The burden is weighted more heavily on practitioners in the UK and thus more time and resources are needed to fully meet the ends of justice. Indeed, the Council of Europe report warns that significant cuts to the budget could breach the human rights of those accused of crimes as lawyers would be unable to meet the requirements and spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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