I find the Legal Services Commission’s assertions that defendants have been assessed as able to pay and that delays are caused by forms having to be returned disingenuous.
Just because the LSC has assessed that defendants should contribute 90% of their income does not mean they are able to do so.
A more accurate reflection of the position in respect of legal aid applications would be ‘we aim to return all forms if a pretext to do so can be found’.
This ‘head in the sand’ approach has a negative effect on public expenditure in terms of court delays, administration costs, litigants in person, appeals and prison population. Not to mention a coming army of debtors unable to pay or challenge the basis of their debts.
Given the piecemeal approach of the last few years, I now perversely welcome the anticipated transformation of criminal legal aid. There will always be crime and, in the long run, it is cheaper to have represented rather than unrepresented defendants.
Gil Spurling, Ennon & Co Solicitors, London N4