Government petition response - cop out!

Discussion in 'Finance, Property, Law' started by broken_man, Jan 25, 2010.

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  1. I signed up to this petition a while back and just got the official reply:

    Petition:

    "The Ministry of Justice plan to implement a new costs recovery system from October 2009. Under new rules any defendant acquitted of an offence in the Magistrates’ Court will only be reimbursed at prevailing legal aid rates regardless of the level of costs they paid to their lawyers. This proposed rule change will undoubtedly mean that many defendants will accept wrongful prosecutions for commercial reasons. The Association of Motor Offence Lawyers (of which I am President) see thousands of convictions each year in the Magistrates’ Court that should never occur due to misunderstanding of technical points concerning motoring legislation. If a defendant wishes to clear their name, they often have to take their case to the Crown Court. This can be an expensive process for which legal aid is unavailable which many will not embark upon with the knowledge that even when they win their appeal, they will lose the majority of the legal fees they spend in the process. The costs savings the government are seeing to make could be made by examining and improving other ineffective processes within the court system. It is not fair to pass yet another expense onto the public.”

    Response:

    "While the Government accepts that individuals who are acquitted in the magistrates’ court should continue to have access to Central Funds, it is essential that we also target our resources effectively, secure value for money for the taxpayer and control areas of overspend in our budget.

    The Government does not believe that defendants will be more likely to plead guilty to offences they would otherwise deny. Defendants who pay for representation privately do so without certainty that they will be acquitted. If acquitted, there is no guarantee that any particular sum would be assessed as reasonable.

    We believe that the rates we pay for criminal cases under legal aid are both fair and sustainable and should be available on the open market.

    We believe that lawyers are able to provide a reasonable service at legal aid rates, but if a defendant wants to have, for example, a senior partner’s undivided attention, he may be prepared to pay more for a “premium service”, but would have to understand that he would not recover all of these costs."

    Yeah cheers for that!
     
  2. I have mixed feelings on this. Some well known defendants employ very expensive lawyers who would'nt dream of defending the average citizen. In those cases the legal aid rate would seem appropriate. However, it is likely to affect Mr Average who will have to pay to prove innocence and may well decide to plead guilty on the cost factor. That would suit the state fine. It decides on the your guilt. It's moving that way with offences prosecuted by local authorities.
     
  3. I agree with you rp I feel that it is a bad idea and that the option of a cheap guilty plea as opposed to an expensive court case may occur, if the state falsely/wrongly accuses it should pick up the tab, at a sensible rate naturally.
     
  4. Having been on the receiving end of the "cheap guilty plea" some time ago I agree with this entirely.
     
  5. I am not at all surprised by such an anodyne response. Your local MP would receive the same response if he were allowed to raise the issue in Parliament.

    As more power is devolved to state agencies to impose fixed penalty fines, often in arbitrary circumstances with limited rights of appeal, the change in such rules protects the revenue-base by deterring challenges through the court system. It compels the individual to engage in a cost-benefit exercise in which he may decide to accept an unfairly imposed fine levied by an untrained and inexperienced official or have the decision overturned by the court with legal representation with a cost implication potentially far greater than the original fine.

    The state is here endorsing and underwriting the arbitrary behaviour of its officials who are engaged in collecting 'revenue' derived from behaviour categorised as 'taxable' while at the same time circumventing judicial scrutiny.

    It is a system which may be described as a natural corollory to financial benefits which have thus far accrued to the Treasury from speed cameras premised upon 'road safety'. It is a typically British solution in which expediency is allowed to triumph over justice.

    It is only a matter of time before a reference is made to the European Court of Human Rights but that will take at least five years from initial reference to final decision and then a delay from judgement to implementation.

    In the meantime, very little critical analysis has been engaged in by the media to raise public awareness of how the traditional protection of the individual by the court is being eroded and undermined while Her Majesty's opposition parties remain curiously muted on the point.