I write in great sorrow rather than anger, as a tragedy has unfolded. This was highlighted by the illuminating Panorama of 30 March concerning the demise of civil legal aid.
We all knew in our hearts that the overwhelming majority of litigants in person cannot cope with the niceties of the legal system. That, with respect, is what lawyers are for.
What was even more shocking was that the former administration chose to put up Kenneth Clarke in a fruitless attempt to shore up its spurious case.
Parliament is, of course, dissolved and there must now surely be a reckoning. In terms that lawyers understand, the indictment would read as follows:
Count 1 – that the former administration presided over the deliberate and reckless dismantling of an excellent and working civil legal aid system.
Count 2 – that the former administration presided over the deliberate and reckless dismantling of an excellent criminal legal aid system.
Count 3 – that concomitant with the above, it proceeded to shred the excellent administrative staffing of both the civil and criminal courts, which are now largely unmanned or running on a skeletal basis.
Count 4 – that consequent upon the above counts, there has been a dramatic and frankly shocking loss of morale in the lower judiciary and in the staffs of the courts in general.
This has, in turn, had a knock-on effect on all those practising in these areas of law. It is, frankly, unforgivable.
The criminal and family bar in particular have suffered terribly, both in loss of practitioners and experience. All this in an effort to reduce a budget of £2bn? It does not add up.
As a judge pointed out in Panorama, there has been no saving to speak of in civil law, due to the extra time and costs of dealing with litigants in person.
So far as criminal law is concerned, it is now so badly paid because of the cuts that no young aspiring solicitor or barrister would wish to practise it.
The court system as we knew it lies in ruins.
John Greenwood, retired family lawyer and recorder, Chippenham, Wilts