Categorized | Legal Aid

An open letter to Chris Grayling

An open letter to Chris Grayling

Dear Chris,

Re: Transforming Legal Aid

I read your opening ministerial statement in this lengthy document and had a moment of early confusion. You said:

“Unfortunately, over the past decade, the system has lost much of its credibility with the public.”

And I assumed you had stopped to talk about the banking system. Propped up with £123.93bn of the tax payers money in 2009 and currently still owing the tax payer £456.33bn?* And as a tax payer, I do feel very angry about this, alongside every other tax payer in this country.

But of course not, you were actually talking about a new way of promoting a “fair, open justice system” whilst saving £220m per year. As you said this with a straight face, I would like us to stand back together for a moment and look at those figures:

£456.33bn vs £220m – do you notice a pimple sized problem here in the grand scheme of things?

The amount the government is trying to save by radical reform of the criminal legal aid system is about the size of the standard bankers bonus pot these days. That pays for a lifestyle that is beyond the means of any of us who have devoted our working lives to the legal aid system – and that includes the 6 barristers that you, Mr Grayling, have taken a particular dislike to in para 5.34 of your lengthy consultation paper. And I am so incredibly angry about just these facts that it is difficult to know where to start on the rest of it. But here is some early feedback for your consultation:

  1. An obvious first point: the data in Appendix D fails to show anyone the actual cost of these cases and is therefore fundamentally flawed as a basis for calculating fees. If Appendix D was a witness, its credibility would be taken apart very quickly and effectively.
  2. The maths of your basic assumptions is really suspect. You require firms to fund a 250% expansion with proposed fee cuts of at least 17.5% and no guaranteed level of work under each contract. Would even a sub-prime mortgage banker take those odds?
  3. The impact assessment on both providers and clients of BVT again ignores the dodgy maths. 400 contracts in 42 areas means that as few as 38 firms could end up with contracts if a few large organisations and joint ventures bid for multiple areas. That means no choice for clients and genuine ethical difficulties in conflict situations. It also means 1,562 criminal law practices potentially closing, making a lot of people unemployed, together with ancillary businesses that sit around those firms. And you have the temerity to suggest that this is somehow of a piece with the governments SME agenda.

But my most fundamental point is aimed at the disingenuousness of trying to persuade us, tax payers and supporters of legal aid and principles behind it, that this all adds up to a fair system of justice. It doesn’t. I have spent long enough on the front line of the criminal justice system (unlike you or the people who put this damn fool scheme together) and I know that this plan represents game over for justice in the criminal courts.

Christina Grzasko

*Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/nov/12/bank-bailouts-uk-credit-crunch

This post was written by:

- who has written 11 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Founding designer of iLaw products. Practiced criminal defence work for the majority of her legal career, dual-handing duty and crown court work with being a franchising manager. Worked for DMH Stallard, Griffith Smith, Bosley & Co and Tuckers Solicitors. Her unique career path has also taken her deep into online retail and Christina is an expert at working with business owners and partners to develop new or better ways of enabling law firms to survive and thrive in the ever changing legal environment.

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One Response to “An open letter to Chris Grayling”

  1. Hear, hear.

    Did Mr Graying actually read his Ministerial Foreword before publishing it? I don’t think so.

    He says “under the previous government, cost of the system spiralled out of control and it became one of the most costly in the world”

    Simply untrue. It was the previous government who brought in the Graduated Fee Schemes, Mr Grayling.

    The system may well be the most costly in the world but it is THE BEST JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. Until Autumn 2014.

    In fact, did the Justice Secretary read anything in the document at all? There are fundamental technical errors in some of the figures quoted in the document.

    Please see the figures mention on page 74 (5.13). These figures are correct and exclusive of VAT.

    Now refer to the figures on page 75 (5-18). The amounts under the “current fees” and “proposed fees” are correct but inclusive of VAT, capito?

    In a Court of Law, Mr Grayling’s case would be ripped apart………!

    I could go on an on.

    Thank you for reading my boring post.

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