LONDON, May 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Eighty per cent of Brits fear they will not be able to afford legal fees under Government's proposed changes to legal aid
Four out of five members of the British public have said that should they find themselves accused of a crime, they would be unable to pay the average cost of legal fees for a three-day trial, and could be forced to represent themselves.
As the government prepares to make major cuts to legal aid, a Populus survey of 2,000 people, found that 60% of respondents agreed that the proposed reforms showed Government cuts once again hitting those on middle incomes hardest.
Furthermore, nearly two thirds (64%) felt the proposed cuts would negatively impact the British justice system, with more innocent people than ever before being sent to prison.
The research was commissioned by the six Circuit leaders representing the Bar across England and Wales, and in conjunction with the Criminal Bar Association.
Alistair MacDonald QC, leader of the North Eastern Circuit, says the data reinforces the view that many Britons will be faced with financial ruin in a bid to defend themselves in court and the Criminal Bar as we know it will be decimated:
"Chris Grayling says these reforms are about cutting legal aid to the wealthiest individuals, but with a cap of £37,500 joint household disposable income, it will be hard-working families hit hardest. Many will face the prospect of having to remortgage in order to defend themselves.
"The losers from this bill will be law-abiding citizens on modest incomes who defend their homes against intruders, accidentally clip a cyclist in their cars, or who are simply among the many each year accused of crimes they haven't committed.
"If Grayling gets his way, even those who qualify for legal aid will have their lawyer, potentially from G4S or Serco, chosen for them - even Eddie Stobart has said they intend to bid for work. The globally-renowned British criminal justice system as we know it will be unrecognisable."
He concluded: "We know money needs to be saved, but there really is little to support in the proposed reforms. We ask the Government to give us the opportunity to work with the united legal profession to develop new, more effective reforms which maintain the fairness of the justice system and protect the rights of ordinary people."
SOURCE Six elected regional heads of the Bar