Duncan Lewis

Romford Office

Crime and Civil cases

house 40 staff

Cars of criminals would be sold by the government to recoup their legal bill in criminal cases

Date: (13 March 2013)    |    

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Last week the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling had announced further cut to legal aid bill in England and Wales where the savings would be done by cutting costs in criminal cases including introducing competition among lawyers for contracts, a consultation is to start in April.
The other feature of his proposals was the power to sell guilty defendants cars to recoup the legal costs. Which has followed even while the Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger’s warning that legal aid cuts already going ahead in civil cases may restrict access to justice.
The scheme looks set to target wealthy criminals who do not pay their bill at the end of the trial. They could see their cars seized and the proceeds put towards the costs from July. According to The Telegraph, some £75 million in legal aid has been ordered to be repaid since 2010, but so far just £16 million, about a fifth, has been received, Ministry of Justice figures show.
Savings of up to £350m have already been earmarked by removing legal aid for a range of civil cases including those involving social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems.
Criminal defence took a large chunk of the remaining legal aid spend. The department was working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts he added.
Mr Grayling said the consultation paper on plans - including introducing price competition in the criminal legal aid market - would be published in April.
Tendering for contracts would be opened in autumn 2013 and the first contracts would "go live" in autumn 2014, he said.
Mr Grayling said the consultation would include further "proposals to both improve the credibility of the legal aid scheme and reduce its cost to the taxpayer". Those proposals are yet to be announced.
But the Bar Council representing England and Wales said that a model based on price competition was a blunt instrument which does not assure the safeguards and qualities which is expected from the justice system chairman Maura McGowan QC said. She added decisions of allocation of work should be made on quality and not on money alone.
The Ministry of Justice also announced new measures on Tuesday to clamp down on criminals hiding their assets to qualify for legal aid under the "Crown Court means-testing scheme". Other measures include making criminals pay the entire cost of their defence if they refuse to take part in means testing.