Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Legal Aid Reforms 'Block Access to Justice'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Legal Aid Reforms 'Block Access to Justice'

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

LEGAL aid reforms that will slash the number of law firms and end defendants' right to choose a solicitor will have a "cataclysmic" effect on justice for London's ethnic minorities, it was claimed today.

Groups representing black and Asian lawyers warned that the changes were unfair as they would remove the ability of many ethnic minority defendants to choose a solicitor from the same culture and background who understands their needs. This would lead to lower quality representation and miscarriages of justice, they claimed. The lawyers also described the reforms as an "attack on London's proud multicultural heritage" because of the number of ethnic minority solicitors who will be put out of business. The warning, in a letter to the Standard from the Society of Black Lawyers, the Society of Asian Lawyers and four other bodies, follows the publication last month of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's plans to cut [pounds sterling]220million a year from the legal aid budget by 2019.

The number of law firms nationwide is expected to fall from more than 1,600 to about 400 under a new system of price competitive tendering. …

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