The noble concept of the state - or rather the taxpayer - coughing up lawyers' fees for those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the shit, but unable to fund legal representation. All very laudable, but like everything else in this fucking country, the concept has been twisted, inverted and rammed up its own hoop to the point where it's perverse.
Legal Aid in the UK is administered by the Legal Services Commission. The LSC is an executive non-departmental public body that comes under the wing of the Ministry of Justice and is responsible for the administration of Legal Aid in both England and Wales. Typically, the Porridge Wogs are spared this bureaucratic nightmare and have their own system, which is generally perceived as fairer [Quelle surprise!].
The LSC oversees two specific operations:
The Community Legal Service
The CLS is the service that deals with pithy civil crap such as Human Rights issues, family squabbles, debt and planning pissing matches with local councils. This is the service that deals with all the freeloading chav filth and the poor impoverished pikeys who are unable to afford legal representation, but seem perfectly flush enough to tool around in fucking enormous 4x4s and £100,000 trailer homes.
Bizarrely, we have a situation where the government is actually funding legal action against its own councils through Legal Aid provided to the (fucking) gypsies after they've transformed fifty acres of prime greenery in to a building site overnight, and who then have the bare-faced cheek to take the council to court for not providing them with 'facilities' - which is rather like the RSM jailing himself for being late on parade. Mad!
We also have a situation where a lag in the clink can sue HMP for Human Rights 'breaches', i.e. being forced to 'slop out' - and all funded by the public purse.
The Criminal Defence Service
This is the real meaty stuff. The CDS provides free legal advice and representation for those facing criminal charges who are unable to pay for legal help, such as politicians, media magnetes, ex-pat train robbers and international drug barons - despite the system being (allegedly) means tested. Just hope to God you're never in a situation where you're in the kack and you're skint, 'cause guess what isn't coming your way?
The LSC purchases around £2 billion of legal services annually for its clients - which is a nice way of saying that £2 billion's worth of beer tokens go to swell the coffers of the legal eagles and keep them in the manner to which they've become accustomed: top-of-the-range Mercs, golf glub membership, lunch at the Ivy, Romanian prostitutes et al.
These services provide legal advice, assistance and representation to over 2 million people (who can either easily afford it, or don't deserve it) each year. The organisation helps protect the 'fundamental rights of the individual' and addresses 'problems that contribute to social exclusion'. Blah blah blah.