Ninety QCs have warned that government plans to cut legal aid for judicial review will ‘immunise’ the state from legal challenge.
They are ‘gravely concerned’ that the cuts threaten practical access to judicial review and will ‘seriously undermine’ the rule of law, and ‘Britain’s global reputation for justice’.
In a letter to the Telegraph the 90, who all specialise in public law, acting both for and against the government, add: ‘In practice, these changes will immunise government and other public authorities from effective legal challenge.’
They warn that UK agents and overseas officials will be able to act with impunity and that effective representation will be one-sided.
The government will continue to pay for and be represented by specialist lawyers, while citizens who have been wronged will have to represent themselves.
The QCs urge the government to withdraw the ‘unjust proposals’, which include denying legal aid to those who do not meet a residence test; removing funding for test cases; cutting fees; and removing legal aid for complaints of maltreatment in prison.
Signatories to the letter include Labour’s former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, Liberal Democrat peer and former director of public prosecutions Ken MacDonald QC and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester, as well as Labour peer Lady Kennedy and Cherie Booth QC (pictured).
Among those who have worked in high-profile cases for the government are Lord Pannick, Michael Beloff QC and Monica Carss-Frisk QC.