Last week the Gazette and others widely reported that former Justice Minister Lord McNally had spoken at an event organised by thinktank Politeia and said: ‘A plea to all the lawyers – those coming up and those already there. You have got to accept that bandying about access to justice, it’s really quite fraudulent. To govern is to choose. Is £1.6bn access to justice? Or is it £2.4bn?’
Head of Chambers at GCN, Mark George QC, has written a reply to Lord McNally, published on his blog yesterday (20.9.16): https://mmchgeorge99.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/whingeing-about-legal-aid-cuts-a-reply-to-lord-mcnally/
Mark concludes his piece by saying:
"Lord McNally adds insult to injury by suggesting there is anything fraudulent about trying to protect access to justice. Lawyers are entitled to speak out about the denial of access to justice to the public. They are also entitled to speak out about continual cuts to their rates of pay. And when Lord McNally urges lawyers to shut up and stop whingeing he would do well to bear in mind that our patience is not infinite. The criminal Bar flexed its muscles in 2014 by taking direct action in an ultimately successful bid to prevent further cuts. The government should not think they can simply fob us off with continual reference to the need for austerity. It is high time the MoJ stopped prevaricating and implemented a scheme for the proper payment of criminal advocates including a mechanism for regular review to ensure fees at least retain their value."