Hands up who else just keeps tripping over yet another eye roller of an article in The Telegraph? You don’t even need to buy the thing, people just keep tweeting and facebooking humdinger after humdinger. I don’t want to be constantly confronted with Telegraphisms but I just can’t bring myself to ignore them. This time it’s Noel Arnold’s fault (@Children_Law) for pointing it out an article entitled: Lawyers claim £645 million family breakdown legal aid bill.
I don’t really have the energy to dismantle this, so let me highlight a few of it’s more striking assertions.
Legal aid lawyers are making £645 million from taxpayers over family breakdowns each year – £28 for every household in England and Wales.
Note the use of the word “making” which insinuates profit, although it appears that in fact this figure is the cost to the public purse for the provision of family legal advice and representation service, rather than profit after deduction of cost.
In total just over £2.1 billion is paid to lawyers from the legal aid budget, £1.2 billion of it to defend criminals, the rest to advise people on civil cases, which as well as family law include aid for immigrants trying to stay in the country, people suing over alleged mistreatment at the hands of the NHS or the police, and prisoners upset at jail conditions.
Note the precise terminology:
£1.2b to defend criminals (not for criminal defence), and
immigrants trying to stay in the country (not the other kind who want to leave, we don’t mind them), and
alleged mistreatment at the hands of the NHS and police (we’re prepared to accept all criminal defendants are guilty, but those criticising our beloved national institutions are heretics), and
prisoners upset at jail conditions (not prisoner’s whose human rights have been breached).
Anyone else get a whiff of the undeserving, the trivial and the unpatriotic?
Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, has promised to dramatically cut the total amount spent in the teeth of major opposition from lawyers.
Not to mention the major opposition from all sorts of other people who aren’t lawyers at all. But obviously we only need mention the lawyers, because they can’t argue back since we can beat them over the head with the word “profit” (because lawyers tend to provide public services through private vehicles, although perhaps that may be a more commonplace feature of public service in the future?)
Many lawyers are almost entirely dependent on legal aid work and a list released by Mr Clarke’s department shows that some firms make millions each year from charging the state for their clients.
Self evidently the bigger the firm and the more legal aid work carried out the bigger the charges coming from any one firm. And?
The ten biggest recipients of legal aid, all of them large law firms, received £45.6 million.
Yes, but this is an article about family legal aid, so I’d like to know what proportion of this is family legal aid? And actually, if the ten largest firms received an average of £4m each in legal aid payments (not profit remember) is this really so surprising?
Jonathan Djanogly, the justice minister, said: “At more than £2 billion a year, we pay far more per head than most other countries for legal aid.
“The current system encourages lengthy, acrimonious and sometimes unnecessary court proceedings, at taxpayers’ expense, which do not always ensure the best result for those involved.
“We need to make clear choices to ensure that legal aid will continue to be available in those cases that really require it, the protection of the most vulnerable in society, and the efficient performance of the justice system.
“Our proposals aim to radically reform the system and encourage people to take advantage of the most appropriate sources of help, advice or routes to resolution – which will not always involve the expense of lawyers or courts.”
As to the per head legal aid cost, see here. As to the rest – pish, piffle, bah and other assorted brushoffs.
And the number of custody battles arising from legal separations or cases involving unmarried parents is not known, but is likely to account for a significant part of the £468 million legal bill.
Timewarp to Torytown c1980. Country’s going down the drain. Single mums. Tssk. Tut. Thankfully, we don’t need statistics to tell us what proportion of the bill arises from the irresponsible unmarried (who cohabit, breed and litigate with similar astonishing abandon) since we can rely upon our preconceptions.
Cases of children being taken into care, forced marriages, and international child abduction will still be funded, but the rules about who is entitled to legal aid will be tightened, meaning no homeowner will be able to claim support.
Well, um no. This is just wrong. Care, forced marriage and child abduction will not become means tested.
£89 million was given to lawyers for immigration and asylum work, virtually all of it to help immigrants stay in the country.
Am I missing something? What else would immigrations and asylum work entail? I don’t think many immigrants instruct lawyers because the government won’t let them go back home.
Emma Boon, campaign director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Our legal aid bill is excessive and needs to be better controlled.
“The gigantic family cases figure reveals the true cost of broken Britain and shows that too many lawyers are profiting at taxpayers’ expense.”
Should those experiencing the social and legal problems arising from our broken society do this without access to legal advice? Why are the lawyers cast as to blame for the public expense, when the social breakdown has already been identified as the root cause? You could shoot all the lawyers and we’d still have broken Britain.
You get the general idea. Need I say more?