You don’t have to be a criminal to need a criminal law solicitor!
The government plan to introduce changes to criminal legal aid which will remove client choice and radically affect access to justice.
Most people think that this doesn’t affect you but here are some examples of when you might need the help of a criminal defence lawyer:
- You are driving home after a family day out. The children are arguing in the back of the car. One of them throws something at the other who screams. You turn around momentarily to tell them off. When you look back the traffic in front of you has come to a halt. You brake but can’t avoid going in to the back of the car in front. The passenger in the car in front is killed. You are arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.
- There are a number of youths outside your home address being noisy and disruptive. You go out to have a word with them and tell them to move on. They are abusive to you and one of them comes up to you in a threatening manner so you push him away and go back inside. The next day you are arrested on suspicion of assaulting the youth who is 14 years of age.
- Your 18 year old son goes to visit a new college friend at his house. Whilst there the police attend and search the premises. Drugs are recovered. You son is arrested along with everyone else in the house.
- Your 14 year old daughter and her friend are accused of bullying another girl and putting information about her on Facebook. The police want her to attend the police station for a voluntary interview.
- Your 17 year old nephew goes to a party. He meets a girl and they have sex. The next day the girl tells the police she did not consent to sex and your nephew is arrested on suspicion of rape.
Having no experience of the criminal justice system you ask a police officer friend to recommend a solicitor. He tells you about a firm who you can trust with a wealth of experience.
The government’s proposals mean that unless you can afford to pay for a solicitor you would not have any choice in who came to the police station to represent you. The firm recommended to you by your friend is unlikely to still be doing this work.
The proposals are that firms will have to bid for the work and only those firms who provide the cheapest bids will be allowed to do this work. In Leicestershire there will only be 5 firms able to do criminal legal aid work. It is unlikely senior solicitors with years of experience in this field will be representing you.
Leicestershire Law Society President Helen Johnson said “criminal defence lawyers work 24 hours a day 365 days a year, representing people from all walks of life from children as young as 10 to vulnerable adults and those who have never had any involvement with the police before. Chris Grayling’s proposals to introduce price competitive tendering will remove client choice and restrict access to justice. It is not all about the headline cases, we help people every day who find themselves unwittingly involved in the criminal justice system. Our criminal justice system is the envy of the world and these proposals will see the destruction of it.”
If you disagree with the government’s plans, please visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628 and sign the petition.