Marx on Monday: Legal Aid Cuts

If there is one thing that makes me sick to my stomach it is the constant bleating we hear from “Fat Cat” Barristers about the wholly justified impending government cuts on legal aid spending. Don’t these lazy, rich and privileged people realise that in this difficult financial climate we all have to tighten our belts?

I was in Southwark last week walking past Southwark Crown Court and heard a gaggle of them, in their ridiculous wigs and gowns, bemoaning their so called fate. They were getting very animated, arguing with a respectable looking gent with a gleaming bald head and, to my surprise I realized it was none other than Justice Secretary Chris Grayling trying in vain to persuade them that the cuts were not only necessary, they were more than fair.

“You’re just a bunch of spoilt rich kids milking the system,” I joined in the debate.

“What’s rich about me?” a young black female Barrister protested, “I’m from a working class family in Hackney. I studied for five years after school and left education with debts of £60,000 to follow my dream of becoming a Barrister.”

“But I’ll bet you’re raking it in now,” I told her.

“Last year I grossed £10,000,” she replied, “and after paying for my wig and gown, bands, Archbold, practicing certificate, indemnity insurance, travel expenses and chambers rent I made a loss of £6,000.”

“What about this year?” I challenged her.

“I should gross £20,000,” she replied, “so after expenses, for a working week of around 60 hours, 52 weeks a year, I should have a taxable profit of around £3,000.”

“That’s more than enough Chris isn’t it?” I challenged the Justice Secretary.

“It’s too much Kevin,” Mr Grayling put me right, “I’m bringing in cuts of 30% so her gross pay will come down to £14,000 leaving her a loss of £7,000.”

“So how is that fair?” an older white male Barrister piped up.

“Why,” I challenged him, “how much do you earn?”

“I’ve been a Barrister for thirty years,” he replied, “and I do the most serious cases there are. I expect to gross this year around £80,000.”

“That’s a fortune,” I scoffed, “what are you moaning about?”

“I work a seventy hour week on average,” he explained, “and after paying my travel expenses, insurance, practicing certificate, chambers rent and pension I’m left with a net income of £20,000 which, after the cuts, will fall to £4,000.”

“We’ve all got to tighten our belts mate,” I explained, “what with the cuts my income has been capped at £25,000 a year.”

“And what do you do?” the man asked.

“I don’t,” I replied, “I’m on benefits.”

“So you get six times as much as me for doing nothing!” he scoffed.

“It’s not my fault that you chose the wrong profession,” I defended myself, “ if you Barristers weren’t so aspirational but simply signed on for benefits you’d have no debt, you’d have a much greater disposable income and you’d be able to get up at noon – and your benefits would increase in line with inflation.”

“Exactly,” another Barrister stepped in, “whereas we haven’t had a pay increase for ten years, just cuts every other year, with another 30% due next January.”

“But I have to make those cuts,” Chris Grayling explained, “I need to cut £350 million off the legal aid budget.”

“But you’ve already saved more than that with the last round of cuts,” one of the Barristers protested, “isn’t that enough?”

“No it’s not,” Grayling explained, “we had cut legal aid spending by £800 million by hacking Barristers’ pay, but we’ve spent that money on other more cost effective things.”

“Like what?” I asked him.

“The government paid £800 million to two companies, G4S and Serco, to transport and tag prisoners,” Grayling explained, “we had budgeted for £130 million but costs spiraled out of control.”

“Why was that,” I asked, “was there a massive increase in prisoner numbers?”

“No,” Grayling explained, “the two companies were claiming tens of millions of pounds for the cost of tagging and transporting prisoners who didn’t exist.”

“Didn’t exist?” I was shocked.

“That’s right,” Grayling explained, “some were in prison so didn’t need tagging, some had left the country and some were dead.”

“Wasn’t that a fraud?” I gasped.

“We’re not sure,” Grayling replied, “but we don’t think so. G4S has stated it was down to astounding incompetence and we think that may be true when you look at their Olympic security fiasco, where the government agreed to pay them £282 million to provide 10,000 security staff for the Olympics.”

“And did they?” I asked.

“No they charged £553 million and only provided 4,000 security staff.”

“So less than half the staff for twice the cost,” I said, “so what did you do about a company that was so extraordinary incompetent?”

“We gave them a government contract worth £400 million to run the criminal justice system,” Grayling replied.

“And they’ve already over claimed by tens of millions for work they haven’t done,” I sought clarification, “like transporting dead or non-existent men to court?”

“That’s right,” Grayling confirmed, “and that’s why we’re planning on extending their contracts so that they can run police stations, courts and prisons, as well as take over the probation service.”

“So the entire prosecution and rehabilitation arm of the criminal justice system will be run by an astoundingly incompetent company?” I asked.

“Astoundingly incompetent maybe,” Grayling confirmed, “but a lot cheaper than if we were to get the job done properly.”

“But won’t that mean that clever defence Barristers will run rings around your incompetent, unqualified prosecutors,” I asked, “leading to a lot of guilty criminals being acquitted?”

“Absolutely not,” Grayling shook his head, “with the proposed legal aid cuts we will drive clever Barristers out of the profession.”

“So who will take their place?” I asked.

“We have a whole range of inexperienced, incompetent and in some cases downright dishonest firms like G4S, Serco and Stobart Barristers lined up to take over the criminal defence system,” Grayling explained, “so every trial is guaranteed to be scrupulously fair.”

“How come?”

“Because the prosecution will be absolutely useless,” Grayling explained, “but the defence will be equally crap, if not worse.”

“So for the sake of a saving of £350 million a year you’re prepared to destroy the criminal justice system that has been the envy of the world for eight hundred years since Magna Carta?”

“I’m not destroying it I’m modernizing it,” Grayling protested, “you’ll still have the right to be represented in court or at the police station, but not by a qualified lawyer.”

“So who’ll represent your interests?” I asked.

“One of Eddie Stobart’s lorry drivers,” Grayling replied, “or as we call them Stobart Barristers.”

“This all seems a bit ridiculous Chris,” I sighed, “are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Of course not,” he shook his head, “I’m a journalist with a degree in history – I know nothing about law or the criminal justice system whatsoever.”

“But aren’t there other places where you can make the meager savings of £350 million a year,” I beseeched him, “without destroying the criminal justice system and risking thousands of miscarriages of justice?”

“Like where?” he sighed.

“Like MP’s expenses?” I replied.

“What expenses?” Chris scoffed.

“Didn’t MP’s claim £23 million in expenses last year on, amongst other things, tea and biscuits?”

“If money were no object we could have Barristers defending people accused of crime,” Grayling replied, “but not at the expense of MPs tea and biscuits.”

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” the young black woman Barrister re-joined the debate, “we have to buy our own tea and biscuits.”

Sweat was starting to drip down the Justice Secretaries gleaming bald forehead and I took pity on him.

“Listen,” I took up cudgels against the Barristers on Chris’s behalf, “I know these cuts seen unfair but it’s the same for everybody. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts. Even the MPs salaries are going to be cut, isn’t that right Chris?”

“Not exactly,” Grayling replied, “thanks to the savings on legal aid spending MPs have been able to vote ourselves an inflation busting wage increase of £7,000 a year each.”

10 comments on “Marx on Monday: Legal Aid Cuts

  1. dr
    October 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Most of us, are in this together.

  2. Simon Roberts
    October 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    I believe that Magna Carta guaranteed rights to trial before conviction, I don’t believe that it guaranteed a welfare state for lawyers funded by taxpayers.

    The argument for this system has been that unless the taxpayer funds legal representation to those who cannot afford the high fees, then only the rich could afford it. Bollox.

    The legal system in the UK is one of the oldest closed shops in existence. The old saying “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” (no doubt dreamed up by a lawyer) is only true because the system gives him a choice of doing it himself or paying outrageous legal fees levied by members of a de facto closed shop.

    Endless complex laws, intricate court procedures, arcane rituals involving wigs – all have evolved over the centuries to create a system which benefits a clique and excludes the real purpose of the law – to determine right from wrong and innocence from guilt.

    I can think of fewer people less deserving of sympathy. Well ok, politicians.

    • jazz606
      October 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Of course some MPs are lawyers as well.

    • Colin
      October 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      You are an idiot.

  3. Mark Smith
    October 29, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Please could you give us an example of an arcane ritual involving wigs? Unless you just mean ‘wearing’. And that’s not how you spell bollocks, even the Daily Mail can get that right.
    It’s 10.27 now so I’ll expect your reply in a couple of hours once you’ve got up.

    • Rocco
      October 29, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Elton John gigs?

  4. Simon Roberts
    October 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    What is it exactly that you guys don’t understand?

    If you want to make legal representation available for all, there are two ways of doing it:

    1/ Make it cheaper, via the usual method of competition and free markets.

    2/ Allow it to remain artificially expensive by syphoning funds from the taxpayer to support it.

    The former is what happens in a free economy, the latter is what happens under welfarism – and please remember that welfarism doesn’t just apply to Doreen, it applies to banks, corporations and any other groups to which taxpayer’s money is awarded.

  5. Mark Smith
    October 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    1.40pm. Not a bad lie-in.
    There is no free market when the government sets the prices.
    It is not artificially expensive. Doing away with legal aid will cost the country more in the short, medium and long terms as courts become awash with unrepresented people who have no idea how to present a case, miscarriages of justice increase as there is no defence lawyer checking the integrity of the prosecution case and the prison population will increase.

  6. Mark Smith
    October 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    In case you think I am exaggerating, think about this. Since the civil legal aid cuts there are now many more separated fathers who can’t see their kids because
    1. their ex is blocking contact
    2. there is no legal aid available to get a court order
    3. mediation only works if both parties agree to go
    4. they make their own application to court, resisted by the unrepresented mother, and whereas a lawyer would get straight to the heart of the issue for the court to decide, the unrepresented parties just start flinging mud and the whole thing quickly starts to look like Judge Judy.
    Now we can look forward to this spectacle in the criminal courts as well because everyone swallows the myth that lawyers earn a fortune. Legal aid lawyers do not. Try re-reading the article above.

  7. Mark Smith
    October 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Final thought. Lawyers and doctors have much in common. You only go to see one if you have a problem and you need help. Otherwise, they aren’t necessary..

    How would you feel if you had to pay privately to see your GP? I presume you don’t object to ‘syphoning funds from the tax payer’ to fund your health care?

    Maybe that’s the way forward. Abolish free healthcare, that will only affect sick people just as losing legal aid only affects criminals .Just plan on not being sick and there’s nothing to worry about, right?

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