The Scales of Justice are out of Balance - Anne Franc writes to The Times09 Jan 2014
On Monday 6th January 2014 Barristers and Solicitors felt the need to take a stand against the proposed changes to Legal Aid funding by making a public protest. As a forensic scientist and expert witness of over 40 years standing I fully support them and share in their frustration, not because the changes might reduce mine or their earnings, but because the changes will mean that it will even more difficult for a person accused of wrong doing who cannot afford to pay for their own defence to get an acceptable defence and hence a fair trial. If the proposed changes go ahead only those with considerable means, however innocent or guilty they may be, will be able to engage the best defence solicitors or the best forensic experts to argue their case.
What is even more frustrating is that, having frequented the court system working for both the prosecution and defence for many years, I know full well that in the majority of cases any money wastage is usually caused by the Crown and not by the Defence. The CPS and the police often cause unnecessary delays and court rescheduling by failing to respond to reasonable defence requests for access to evidence or by failing to read or sometimes even acknowledge receipt of any relevant expert defence reports before the trial date. Hence even if in theory the defence evidence could be agreed before the court date, thus saving public money, in my experience, it rarely happens in practice.
If the Ministry of Justice wants to save money then it is time it put its own house in order before it tries to cut back even further on a hard-pressed Legal Aid System which, when faced with the full might of the Crown’s resources on one side, is finding it increasingly more difficult to keep the scales of justice in balance for the common man.