MPs are being urged to defend Britain’s justice system by the president of Birmingham Law Society, who has warned many high street law firms will be forced to close if swingeing legal aid cuts get the go-ahead.
Martin Allsopp is calling on the region’s political representatives to attend a parliamentary briefing to address legal aid issues.
The event, arranged by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) at the Houses of Parliament on February 5, aims to brief parliamentarians on both civil and criminal legal aid issues.
Mr Allsopp has written to Midland MPs and said he hopes as many of them as possible would attend.
The briefing is in response to government plans spearheaded by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling which will see lawyers’ fees cut in a bid to slash £220 million from the annual legal aid budget by 2018-19.
Barristers and solicitors in Birmingham have slammed the proposed cuts, particularly to criminal legal aid, claiming it is a misguided approach that threatens to decimate the country’s criminal justice system.
Speaking about cuts that have already impacted upon an increasingly beleaguered legal profession, Mr Allsopp said: “We are already suffering the consequences of the cuts.
“Birmingham Law Centre closed after 100 years last year when its funding was cut. The Citizens Advice Bureau is battling with the weight of cases and many high street solicitors in inner city areas have already ceased trading or will be forced to close if the cuts are implemented.”
Mr Allsopp added that more cuts would make an already bad situation worse.
“This means that vulnerable people are struggling to get access to justice and, with more cuts in the pipeline, this is only going to get worse,” he said.
“The public is already losing faith in a legal system which has served this country well since Magna Carta and is presently considered to be the fairest in the western world.”
Leading criminal barrister Michael Duck QC has also warned of the long-term damage that will be done to the system.
“The reality is we have been playing our part for almost a decade, we have already seen cuts to legal aid fees, in some cases by up to 50 or 60 per cent,” he said.
“There is short-term political gain here but the damage to the legal system will be irretrievable.”