Human rights barrister says legal aid cuts will lead to 'miscarriages of justice' (From News Shopper)
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Human rights barrister says legal aid cuts will lead to 'miscarriages of justice'
A leading human rights lawyer, who works across south east London, claims legal aid cuts will lead to “miscarriages of justice”.
David Malone - who regularly works in courts in Greenwich, Woolwich, Bexley and Bromley – is taking part in a demonstration in central London tomorrow.
The organised day of action, known as “#Graylingday” on Twitter, is set to cripple courts across the country as barristers and solicitors refuse to appear.
Mr Malone’s comments come as an Erith law centre is closing due to the £220m cuts however a Ministry of Justice spokesman told News Shopper legal aid must remain “sustainable”.
The proposals will see solicitors’ fees reduced by 17.5 per cent on average and barristers’ fees down by around 6 per cent.
Former Forest Hill resident Mr Malone said: “Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s proposals will lead to miscarriages of justice.
“If we dismantle our legal system – which is the envy of the rest of the world – we will never be able to rebuild it again.
“I think all the courts across the country tomorrow will grind to a halt.
“But I don’t know a single person taking part in the day of action tomorrow who is happy about it.
“There is a real sense of worry and anxiety but it just shows the stage we’ve reached.”
Mr Malone said there is debate over whether they should demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice in Westminster in their horse-hair wigs and gowns.
He said: “There is a bit of a Twitter storm about it.
“A lot of people see us in our wigs and gowns and think we’re a bunch of toffs but that is just our uniform – in the same way a doctor wears a stethoscope or an astronaut wears a suit.”
Mr Malone prosecutes and defends on a range of cases and said the changes will be particularly felt in south east London.
Pictured: The Cross Law Centre is closing due to the changes
He said: “It’s a double whammy which will reduce access to justice and access to the legal professions themselves.
“I didn’t come from a posh background at all – it was a single-parent, working-class family.
“These changes will decimate our system of justice and south east London will be the worse off because of it.
“The government says legal aid is spiralling out of control and is expensive but this is a bare-faced lie."
'Criminal barristers simply can't afford to pay their bills'
Fellow barrister Toby Hall, who also works across the News Shopper patch, said: "We've already been hit with savage cuts and many criminal barristers simply can't afford to pay their bills.
"People are already being forced to leave the profession and it's only going to get worse.
"The consequences of selling off justice will affect everyone in our society."
Ministry of Justice response
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Legal aid is a vital part of our justice system but we must ensure it is sustainable for those who need it, for those who provide legal services as part of it and for the taxpayer, who ultimately pays for it.
"We have spoken at length with solicitors and barristers about these reforms and listened closely to their views.
“Our final plans announced last week reflect many of the changes they asked for.
"It does mean fee reductions, but it also includes a series of measures to ease their effect on lawyers.
"Agencies involved in the criminal justice system are taking steps to minimise any upset Friday’s court disruption could cause for victims and witnesses involved in trials.”
For more information, visit the Ministry of Justice website.
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