145 specially appointed Government barristers demand rethink on Legal Aid plans

6 June 2013 by

lawyer-barrister-wig-007145 barristers on the Attorney General’s Panel of Counsel have signed a letter seeking that the Government to rethink its plans for reform of Legal Aid. I was one of the signatories. The letter is reproduced on the Legal Aid Changes blog.  

The letter relates specifically to Judicial Review, which is an area in which Panel counsel practise regularly. Here is a taster:

We consider that the proposals in the Consultation Paper will undermine the accountability of public bodies to the detriment of society as a whole and the vulnerable in particular. Those who are reliant on legal aid are most likely to be at the sharp end of the exercise of government power and are least likely to be able to fund judicial review for themselves, or effectively act in person.

The Attorney General’s Panel is a group of barristers (sometimes referred to, confusingly, as Treasury Counsel) who have been specially appointed to act for Government departments in court. There are three levels of panel: A, B and C, with A being the most senior and C being the least. 145 represents a significant proportion of the panels.

6 comments


  1. James Wilson says:

    Maureen – it’s ironic that a Parliament stuffed full of lawyers seems to have so little grasp of the Rule of Law, whoever is in charge. Witness the deluge of poorly drafted legislation that patently offends a number of Fuller’s eight requirements, and now the evisceration of the right of access to a court. It will hardly save any money anyway given the effect of any increase in the number of litigants in person. (Incidentally Grayling could at least read Rumpole, who would have taught him that the criminal classes assuredly do have their own preferred lawyers …)

    Just as bit a worry is the growth of the professional political classes, which Peter Oborne wrote about a few years ago – those who have never had a job outside of the party machines. If we can’t rely on the lawyers in Parliament to defend the rule of law, we can’t expect much help from those whose skills are confined to making whatever promise is likely to get them re-elected.

    Assume the UK was a gigantic charitable trust, set up for the benefit of the electorate and future generations. The trust is dependent on the success of various businesses within its control but has objects beyond simply profit maximising. Other important ones include a fair disciplinary process for those beneficiaries who breach the terms of the trust, and provision for beneficiaries who are ill, for example. What sort of qualifications would we look for in prospective trustees? Some legal experience for sure, particularly regarding the processes of the trust and the legal implications of all its management. But would we need half of the board composed of lawyers? One thing we would certainly need – and which the cabinet usually lacks – would be experts in hydrocarbons. Our entire way of life is dependent on oil – not just transport/energy, but virtually every material item we use (including but not limited to everything plastic). We would also require people who have experience in actually being a doctor or nurse as opposed to a management role somewhere. It is also a safe bet that if there were more entrepreneurs and formerly self employed in the cabinet our employment laws would not look much like they do now. One could go on …

  2. Don’t you wonder why there are so many lawyers and members of the judiciary at Westminster sitting on both sides, and of all political parties?

  3. Having watch a couple of people unable to pursue genuine legal claims as their legal aid ran out, I feel this can only ever have the effect of widening the gap between the haves and the have nots.

  4. Mike says:

    This stubborn government, led by right-wingers like Grayling, don’t give a jot for the rights of the poor.
    Experience of Grayling & co., shows that they pay no heed to letters or placard-waving demos. Only direct action, leading to a complete standstill of the country’s services, shall make them listen.

  5. CommonPerson says:

    Why does government have access to top barristers (because it knows that way they have best chance of winning everything) but prevents ordinary people like me from accessing any kind of justice, let alone JR, because we are already unable to get Legal Aid if we have no income but equity in only home? Not exactly a level playing field is it? And they want to make justice (especially against them) even more impossible. They know what they are doing.

  6. in answer to the legal-aid blog*
    as a disabled person,
    I find that theUNCHRDP,
    contains an article giving,
    the right to legal services*
    as the treaty was ratified in 2009,
    by the UK*
    the right to legal-aid is enshrined

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