Legal Aid cuts criticised

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Legal aid cuts damaging for vulnerable and justice system

Senior members of the legal profession have been alarmed by the results of a report by charity Transform Justice, which has found what it says is strong evidence of an increase in defendants representing themselves in court. One part of the evidence, a poll of the legal profession, found 90% of respondents felt there had been an increase in the last two years. Unrepresented defendants plead guilty when they often have a reasonable defence, get longer sentences and slow the justice system down. Mark Fenhalls QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association in England stated: “There is increasing evidence from civil and criminal courts that restricting legal aid is counter-productive and has made the court system less efficient and more expensive. An unrepresented defendant in a criminal trial is like having an unqualified person performing surgery. The patient, our justice system, is bound to suffer and in the long run society will spend more money picking up the pieces.” Transform Justice’s Justice Denied report suggests legal aid cuts, complex bureaucracy and inadequate support for defendants has led to the increase in people appearing in court without a lawyer
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