The economy may be looking a little healthier according to some, but many people are yet to feel the effect.
Many of us have endured a period of reduced or stagnated income as businesses try to reduce their expenditure in order to survive this period of austerity.
Against this background, it is not surprising that some of the general public have reacted less that sympathetically to the ruling in the recent case of Crawley and others at Southwark Crown Court this week.
The case was halted when the firm of solicitors representing the Defendant failed to instruct a barrister to represent him. Mr Alex Cameron QC, brother of the Prime Minister, successfully argued that the trial could not proceed if the Defendants were unrepresented.
The case involved a complex and high value fraud; a matter that would take hours of painstaking work and preparation.
The failure of any trial to proceed impacts on everyone involved. From the wasted court time (other Defendants could have been tried sooner) to the wasted time of everyone else involved in the process; complainants, witnesses, Prosecutors. In the case of Crawley and others, some 69 Barristers chambers were contacted. None had a barrister willing to act.
While this case attracted publicity due to the value of the fraud and the appearance of the Prime Ministers brother, it is symptomatic of the problems created by the current approach to Legal Aid.
It also sets a worrying precedent, which has gone largely unnoticed.
While the more ‘media worthy’ cases grab the headlines, the precedent established by the case of Crawley and others will eventually filter down to affect everyone. As Legal Aid is eroded it is inevitable that there will be fewer practitioners, furthermore, the unavailability of funding may mean people feel that they have to resort to representing themselves. In complex and high profile cases the Judiciary are correct to conclude that someone cannot receive a fair trial if they are unrepresented, but will it stop there? Will there be a point at which a Judge feels that a prosecution is minor enough to direct that someone who cannot source or pay for their defence should represent themselves, even though they have tried to access legal help and representation?
At Beecham Peacock Solicitors in Newcastle we will do everything we can to ensure that you have access to excellent representation at every court level. We work with the Criminal Bar to ensure the best service possible for all our clients. We also acknowledge that the importance of a case is not dictated by its value. If you are worried or unsure about the cost of representation, come and speak to us. We can assess whether you would be entitled to public funding and if not, we will be clear and upfront about the cost. In some cases we can arrange a fixed fee, so that you can be sure of the cost of your case. We also offer a free initial consultation.
In these uncertain times, don’t leave it to chance!