First Lady of Law Sounds Legal Aid Reform Warning

Article excerpt

The first woman president of Birmingham Law Society has taken office with a stark warning that members of the public could be denied justice if proposed legal aid reforms are pushed through by the Government.

Mrs Jayne Willetts, a litigation partner at edge ellison in Birmingham, said plans by Home Secretary Mr Jack Straw and the Lord Chancellor Lord Irving to limit legal aid in both criminal and civil cases was entirely Treasury driven and ultimately would lead to two-tier system for the 'haves and the have nots'.

She said that although her own firm did not take legal aid cases it was clear from what her members told her that the situation was steadily deteriorating every year.

She said: 'I think that first and foremost the Government is trying to save money, plain and simple.

'One of my biggest concerns is that I don't think they have given sufficient regard to members of the public without access to lawyers, for instance, those that live in rural areas and may have to travel many miles for advice as fewer firms offer legal aid services.

'The number of firms offering their services on a no-win no-fee basis is also a good example of how some people will not get the representation they need.

'If a case that doesn't merit legal aid has a 60-70 per cent chance of success from the outset then a solicitor is likely to take that on but if it is only 50 per cent from the outset, although it may get better as the case proceeds, that claimant will be left without access to a solicitor. …