THE Bar Council has published a booklet marking the 60th anniversary of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. The booklet, Legal Aid: 60 Years of Public Service by Barristers, was launched at the Chairman of the Bar’s Media Reception at Middle Temple, and sets out the history of legal aid since 1949. It describes how barristers funded by legal aid have acted for some of society’s most vulnerable over the past 60 years.
The booklet emphasises the crucial role legal aid plays in providing a fair and effective justice system, by highlighting a number of case studies in criminal, family and civil law. The studies show how public funding of legal representation by barristers has made a real difference to people’s lives and helped to develop the law. The Bar Council’s booklet is published as the publicly-funded Bar is coming under increasing strain with the prospect of further cuts by the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission (LSC). Proposals to introduce Best Value Tendering (BVT), which are not based on any reliable empirical or economic evidence, will inevitably drive down quality. With many experienced advocates already leaving publicly-funded practice because they cannot afford to stay at the Bar, the impact of successive legal aid cuts on an effective justice system is likely to result in increased, not decreased, public expenditure.