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Justice Secretary reveals legal aid review is on its way — just one day after government confirms further cuts

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As Secret Barrister condemns plans in devastating tweets

David Lidington, the Justice Secretary, has said he’ll make an announcement on reviewing the impact of legal aid cuts in the “very near future” — just one day after the government confirmed further slashes to the criminal justice system.

Smooth-talker Lidington gave a parliamentary evidence session performance worlds apart from that demonstrated by his predecessor, Liz Truss, this morning. In it, he told the Justice Committee a review into the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is “forthcoming”. He also said he’ll look at the suggestions made by campaigners as part of this review with “an open mind”.

He gave little indication of what the effect of that review might be, however. Addressing the committee — its head, MP and criminal barrister Bob Neill, pictured below — Lidington said that while he’d always welcome “being given a crock of gold from the Treasury”, he’s conscious all spending Cabinet ministers could make arguments they could use more money as well.

Bob Neill MP

Later, 1979 University Challenge champion Lidington was pushed on the vicious cycle of civil legal aid cuts causing more litigants in person, which then slows down the court system and costs the justice system more money. Though he makes no promises, Lidington said:

“I’m perfectly willing to look at the argument that you could save money in the longer term if you have some kind of triage legal advice upfront.”

Legal aid is a hot topic this week given the government has said it’ll press ahead with further cuts on the criminal side of things.

David Lidington MP

The Conservatives plan to reform the legal aid fees paid to solicitors in criminal cases. This, anonymous legal blogger the Secret Barrister explained in an irate but useful Twitter thread, comes on top of nearly two decades of real-term cuts to solicitors’ fees. He continued:

The public, the Secret Barrister concedes, may struggle to sympathise with the plight of accused criminals and those that represent them. But, he noted:

“Solicitors are the A&E staff of the legal world. They spend a lot of time dealing with people you may have limited sympathy for.
 It’s often patching up the devastation of alcohol and drug-fuelled violence, tragic accident and wanton human self-destruction.
 But just as you want properly trained and properly paid doctors and nurses, so you should want the same for solicitors. Just in case.
 Don’t let the government destroy legal aid solicitors by convincing you they’re just for ‘other’ and ‘bad’ people. They’re for us all.
”

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