He also called on the Government to ensure that any reforms to the legal aid system maintain high quality representation for all those eligible to receive it, particularly the most vulnerable members of society. Peter Lodder QC addressed delegates at a fringe meeting, co-hosted with the Society of Conservative Lawyers, on Access to Justice in an Age of Austerity. He also spoke at a separate
meeting, hosted by Policy Exchange, on the reform of the Legal Aid system. Jonathan Djanogly MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, joined the speaking panel at both meetings.
Peter Lodder QC, Chairman-Elect of the Bar Council, said:
“It is abundantly clear that tough times lie ahead for the justice system, as the Ministry of Justice looks for £2bn of savings. The Bar and the wider legal profession will work with the Government, both to identify savings, be that by the simplification of laws, or taking a more rational approach to drug law or sentencing. But we must also educate Government on the potential unintended consequences that particular cuts may have. For example, a reduction in the quality of representation in criminal cases can increase the costs of cases, prolong trials and lead to more appeals as well as increase the risk of miscarriages of justice.”
On reform of legal aid, he said:
“The legal aid system, which last year marked its 60th anniversary as a front line service, is under considerable scrutiny and like other public services faces huge financial pressure. However, it remains a vital safety net both for society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable as well as for hardworking members of society who deserve professional assistance in a time of great need. The Bar has embarked on
a change programme to adapt its working practices and business models to prepare for the expected changes which are likely to result from the Comprehensive Spending Review.
In return the Bar is looking to the Government to ensure that all service providers can offer their services to the public on a level playing field. The fundamental principles which underpin the system must be safeguarded for the future and not sacrificed on the altar of short-term savings.”