Criminal law barrister Karl Turner has been handed the legal aid brief by new Labour leader Keir Starmer, who completed his shadow front bench line-up on Friday. Turner's appointment was widely welcomed by criminal defence lawyers.
Hull East MP Turner, who served under Jeremy Corbyn as shadow attorney general in 2016, said: 'Legal aid has suffered savage, decimating cuts at the hand of successive Tory-led governments over the past decade. Whilst our immediate focus will of course be doing all that we can to overcome Covid-19, I relish the opportunity to fight for the restoration of proper access to justice, through legal aid, to its rightful place at the heart of our justice system.
'Legal aid was introduced by the great reforming Labour government of 1945-1951, on the vital principle that if all are equal before the law, all must have equal access to it. Regrettably, we have strayed far from that goal. As part of Labour's new shadow justice team, I will do all that I can to ensure that legal aid becomes again a basic right of everybody in our country.'
Turner's appointment was widely welcomed.
Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association and a consultant solicitor at Hull firm Williamsons, said: 'I can't think of a better candidate.' The London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association said it has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Turner, 'who understands access to justice issues'.
Prominent legal blogger Secret Barrister said: 'This is an outstanding appointment. Someone who has worked in legal aid, understands it back to front and recognises its importance to a civilised society.'
Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, succeeded Corbyn as Labour leader last weekend. One of his first moves was to appoint barrister David Lammy as shadow justice secretary. Lammy, who conducted a government-commissioned landmark race review of the criminal justice system, has repeatedly criticised the lack of diversity in the judiciary.
Also in the shadow justice team are Alex Cunningham, who started his career as a journalist at the Darlington and Stockton Times, who was appointed shadow minister for courts and sentencing. Former social worker Lyn Brown is given prisons and probation. Peter Kyle, a former chief executive of charity Working for Youth, is shadow minister for victims and youth justice.
The shadow Home Office team is being led by barrister Nick Thomas-Symonds. His team includes Jess Phillips, who has long fought to improve the family court system for victims, who becomes shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding. Former housing solicitor Bambos Charalambous will oversee crime reduction and courts.
Lord Falconer (Charlie Falconer QC), who served as lord chancellor in Tony Blair's government, succeeds Shami Chakrabarti as shadow attorney general. Employment law barrister Ellie Reeves, who has often called for early legal advice to be restored in housing matters, was appointed shadow solicitor-general.