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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

British justice for sale, only the rich need apply!

British justice for sale, only the rich need apply!

Asylum seekers face legal aid axe

Richard Ford, Francis Elliott
Last updated August 17 2010 12:01AM

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers and immigrants will no longer receive legal aid to challenge decisions to deport them under plans to slash billions from the Ministry of Justice budget.

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, wants to end repeated challenges to decisions to turn down claims for asylum and last-minute challenges to deportation orders. “We cannot go on allowing judicial reviews of every decision. We are just going round and round on a merry-go-round,” a Whitehall source said.

A tenth of the £900 million civil legal aid budget was spent on asylum and immigration cases last year.

The Ministry of Justice wants to reduce legal aid spending on immigration cases as part of an overhaul of help for individuals involved in court action.

Another area where savings are to be made is in medical negligence cases. Victims of botched operations will no longer receive legal aid to sue the NHS under the proposals being prepared within the ministry.

In the past three years legal aid costs for cases of medical negligence came to £82 million, but in future ministers will expect people to make their own private arrangements if they wish to sue doctors. “There are plenty of no-win, no-fee lawyers. They can take on this work,” one Whitehall source said.

Mr Clarke’s plans to restrict legal aid for immigration cases provoked outrage among lawyers and charities, who accused the Justice Secretary of denying legal assistance to some of the most vulnerable people.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Further slashing legal aid for asylum seekers will result in people being wrongly refused protection here and returned to countries where their lives will be in danger. This is unacceptable.”

She added: “We understand these are hard times for everyone, but the UK must remember its proud tradition of giving shelter to those escaping conflict and persecution.”

Nick Green, QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “Individuals suffering serious injury through medical neglect need to obtain compensation to cater for their future care. If legal aid is withdrawn this must coincide with the development of alternative means for those injured to obtain proper funding for claims.”

The plans to restrict legal aid are part of Mr Clarke’s proposals to cut 25 per cent from the Justice Ministry’s £9 billion-a-year budget. He has said that he cannot cut the £2.4 billion budget for running prisons by 25 per cent and that he is looking for big savings from legal aid and courts’ administration.

Mr Clarke wants to move away from “salami slicing” the £2.1 billion a year spent on legal aid in England and Wales and favours more radical options. The bulk of the savings will come from the £900 million a year spent on civil legal aid rather than on the cash spent on legal aid for criminal cases.

Other areas that may be targeted are the legal aid provided for prisoners, which has soared in the past three years to reach a record £21 million in 2008-09. Nine years ago the figure was only £1 million.

Taxpayer help for separating couples may also be at risk in the hunt for savings. Last year 89,000 people received legal aid totalling £25 million for divorce proceedings.

Mr Clarke has suggested that people should expect to take out private insurance against legal action. Two months ago he said that big changes must be made to the 60-year-old legal system and raised the question of the public taking more responsibility for legal action. “When is it reasonable to say to someone, you really can afford to pay for that yourself, or you really should have insured yourself against that unlikely legal event?” he asked.

The legal aid budget has soared by £500 million since 1997 but has stabilised at about £2 billion a year after cost-cutting imposed after projections that the annual bill would hit £2.6 billion by 2008-09.

Mr Clarke said that current spending on legal aid in England and Wales was higher than almost anywhere else in the world. France spends £3 per head of population, Germany £5, New Zealand £8 and England and Wales £38, he said.

Comment: The poor can get British injustice for free!

1 comment:

James Higham said...

Kenneth Clarke needs to be strung up.