Daily Mail is confused and misleading on legal aid

The Sound off for Justice campaign take apart a Daily Mail article on legal aid and cuts to the justice system.

By Jonny Mulligan of the Sound off for Justice campaign

Sound off for Justice have been forced to write to the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, asking him to retract statements made in an article titled “Now we have more lawyers than police thanks to legal aid”. The article inaccurately reports that the Law Society campaign Sound off for Justice is against the government cuts to taxpayer funded legal aid. This is simply not true and must be retracted.

The fact is the Sound off for Justice campaign agrees that cuts have to be made. The question is how we do this. The Law Society itself in its alternative reforms package is suggesting cuts of £384 million which is greater than the government required savings of £350m pounds.

The Daily Mail claimed that an increase in legal aid funding has led to the an increase in the number of lawyers. While the published facts are that over the past ten years, the number of firms doing legal aid has fallen from over 5,000 to under 3,000.

Only 6 per cent of lawyers in the UK undertake work which is funded by legal aid. The debate around legal aid has being going on for a long time and it is an issue for all political parties and all sections of our society. The budget has been frozen in cash terms since 2004 and it has already fallen significantly in real terms.

According to official figures, the average pay of a young qualified legal aid solicitor is £25,000 – less than your quoted average starting salary for a trainee. The average legal aid solicitor working in the criminal courts earns less than a sewage worker. Whatever is driving the numbers, it certainly is not legal aid.

Sound off for justice agree with the government’s own impact assessment which admits the proposed cuts will cause serious detriment to vulnerable people, meaning they will no longer be able to bring meritorious cases to court.

• The full response to the Daily Mail is published on our website and can be accessed here.

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