The following is an article written by Legal Aid Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Solicitor and Higher Rights Advocate, Michael Burdett;
Writing in the Observer on 1st July 2012, Andrew Rawnsley said that there should be “serious criminal sanctions against venal traders”. I agree but once charged, the financial assets of defendants will be frozen, and many will apply for legal aid, ie another tax-payers’ subsidy.
Fifteen years ago I proposed that legal aid should be withheld from fraudsters, and their representation should be funded by the Financial Services Authority through compulsory levies on financial institutions. The idea was dubbed “let the City pay for its own mistakes”.
I know that three ministers have successively investigated and rejected the idea on Treasury advice, presumably because it would upset the City. In view of recent events, I suggest that the idea be revisited; it could be incorporated in current draft legislation and the power be given to the incoming Consumer Protection and Markets Authority.
About half of the current annual criminal legal aid spend, about £500m, goes on 1% of cases, mostly long and expensive fraud trials. If those cases come out of scope the substantial savings could assist the hard-pressed civil legal aid budget and perhaps restore some of the cuts imposed by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act which come into force next April.
Hanne & Co Solicitors continue to assist with publicly funded cases and for further information on the above, you can email Michael Burdett.
By Criminal Consultant Michael Burdett.