The fundamental right to free legal advice for people held in police stations will not be cut as part of the package of legal reforms which threatened to remove £350m from the £2.2bn legal aid budget. Last night government offered a significant concession on clause 12 as the controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Prisoner of Offenders Bill was debated in the House of Lords.
If you are arrested today you are automatically entitled to free advice from a solicitor paid courtesy of the legal aid scheme. Ministers had proposed under Clause 12 of the Bill that suspects would face a means test before qualifying for public funds (as well as an extension of telephone advice – as opposed to face-to-face – advice under the CDS Direct helpline scheme). In a significant concession, the Justice minister Lord McNally announced that his government would remove the power to introduce a means test.
You can read Prof Ed Cape of the University of the West of England HERE.
‘I recently asked about 80 prosecutors and judges from across Europe whether, if arrested, they would want a lawyer – all bar three said yes. If a judge or prosecutor believes they need a lawyer that tells us something very important about the right to legal advice at the police station.’ Ed Cape