Sun 3 January 2010, The Guardian

New year, same old threats to legal system

By Marcel Berlins
MaWhat will 2010 offer the legal system ? Not much that's new, whoever wins the election, and a great deal that's depressing. The decline of legal aid has been the biggest legal scandal of recent years, and shows no signs of abating. Labour's attack on expenditure on civil and criminal legal aid will continue. Before, the main losers were individuals denied legal aid for civil disputes. Now, criminal justice is feeling the axe, not just from a legal aid perspective but on a range of cost-cutting initiatives – such as the growing passion for automatic justice by way of fixed penalties and cautions – which remove the right to trial. The cumulative effect will be to reduce the fairness of our justice system. The Conservatives, if in government, will have no desire to reverse this unhappy trend.
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