Dear Lord Chancellor
This is my response to the Ministry of Justice’s ‘Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system’ consultation’.
If you implement the MoJ’s proposals you will certainly succeed in ‘transforming’ legal aid. You will do this by devastating it as a proud symbol of civilisation and fairness in this country.
Your ministry has been challenged since the consultation was launched to point to the evidence substantiating the suggestion that the criminal justice system is not at the moment ‘credible’. Notably it has failed to do anything of the sort. In fact your proposals will, probably irrevocably, diminish the system’s credibility.
At the 2012 London Olympics the world was reminded of Britain’s greatest and proudest achievement of the post-War period that being the NHS. Thoughtful people recognise that almost on a parity with the inception of the NHS was the creation of a system of legal aid that meant that all defendants in criminal proceedings in this country were not only properly prosecuted but vigorously and competently defended.
If you were arrested and prosecuted for a crime that you did not commit I would bet the roof over my head that you would want to be tried in this country over any other in the world. Indeed your ministry has embarked on an energetic campaign to encourage forum shopping by litigants around the world in the hope that they will choose London to resolve their legal disputes.
The only reason why Russians and others would choose to litigate in London is because they recognise that this is a country with respect for the Rule of Law. Judges are impartial and litigants, whoever they and however deep their pockets, are guaranteed equality before the law. If the criminal justice system is sold down the river to the lowest bidder Britain’s reputation as a bastion of fairness will be profoundly diminished.
Jury trial has always been a fundamental cornerstone of the philosophy that underpins the Conservative Party. I am sure that you recognise a jury trial is only as fair as the quality of the advocates undertaking it. With that in mind it is baffling that your ministry is proposing to deny quality advocates from those who need them most.
Rich man’s justice is nobody’s justice and justice is either properly executed or not at all. PCT will be a catastrophe for the criminal justice system. PCT will be a catastrophe for Britain and its standing in the world. Lastly PCT will be a catastrophe for your legacy as Lord Chancellor and government minister.
Please do not do this.
9 Bedford Row, Chambers of Anthony Berry QC