Sunderland solicitors hold silent protest over legal aid cuts

Staff from Sunderland Magistrate's Court pictured holding a minute's silence in protest at cuts to Legal Aid.

Staff from Sunderland Magistrate's Court pictured holding a minute's silence in protest at cuts to Legal Aid.

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DEFENCE solicitors stood in silence outside court to protest against cuts in legal aid.

They marked their disapproval over a proposed Government shake-up of the British legal system.

The controversial attempt to slash the judicial system’s £2billion budget includes fee cuts of up to 17.5 per cent, price-competitive tendering for legal aid contracts, and clients no longer being able to choose their own defence lawyer.

Gavin Sword, president of Sunderland Law Society, backed former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Anthony Hooper’s warnings about the changes.

“The two points he made were the removal of client choice and that it is driving down quality. His concern, and our concern as well, is that in the future, there will be no incentive to do a good job because you are not going to see the client again.

“There’s also a potential conflict of interest from a financial position, as somebody providing the service we have an incentive to have the person plead guilty as soon as possible.”

Sir Anthony, who retired as a Court of Appeal judge last year, said price competitive tendering would deny defendants the long-held right to choose their solicitor, and instead create a system where the quality of representation on offer would be vastly reduced.