Tuesday, June 28 2016

Leo McKinstry on legal aid

Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express today grinds an axe against the system of legal aid in the UK arguing that "a radical idea would be to abolish it."

Concerning himself largely with the cases involving 'Muslim terror suspects' McKinstry bemoans the legal aid entitlement as a system under which the public "subsidise a bitter enemy of Britain."

McKinstry writes ""Tragically his [Abu Qatada] case is hardly unique. Taxpayers have handed over a fortune in legal aid to law firms that defend notorious Muslim terror suspects. The mix of political appeasement and the human rights culture has opened up an array of lucrative new opportunities for these lawyers.

"So a company called Arani and Co, based in west London and led by Ugandan ¬born solicitor Mudassar Arani, is estimated to have made £4.8million from public funds in the past six years from terror¬related cases. One of Ms Arani’s most infamous clients is hook-¬handed fanatic Abu Hamza, now on the verge of extradition to the USA on terror charges.

"Bimberg Pierce and Partners from north London, who number Qatada among their clients, are thought to have made £4.4million from legal aid work in terror¬related cases since 2005, while Imran Khan and Partners in central London are reported to have been handed £3.6million in tax¬ payers’ money over the same period."

Leaving aside the right the defendants represented by these law firms have to legal representation, McKinstry makes no mention at all of the successful defence of their rights by those lawyers whose fees could only be paid through legal aid. Think of Binyam Mohamed, Moazzem Begg and Babar Ahmad. Instead, McKinstry repeats the figures cited in an article published in the Daily Telegraph last month ‘Terror and the law, a nice little earner for lawyers’.

The bill on reforming legal aid received the royal assent this week with Labour peer, Lord William Bach, criticising the new legislation as “demean[ing] our justice system and therefore our country. What we now do is to encourage rich foreign litigants to come to this country and [fight their cases in court]. But we take away from the poor their access to justice. What a scandal that is.”

Gareth Peirce, the leading human rights lawyer, when interviewed for the Daily Telegraph article, said, “We have lost our way in this country. We have entered a new dark age of injustice and it is frightening that we are overwhelmed by it. I know I am representing innocent people; innocent people who know that a jury they face will inevitably be predisposed to find them guilty.’’

Perhaps McKinstry might reflect on what the “new dark age of injustice” means for those faced with the prospect of a jury predisposed to assume guilt and the lifeline legal aid provides them?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 20:28

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