“I am compelled to conclude that to allow the state an adjournment to put right its failure to provide the necessary resources to permit a fair trial to take place now amounts to a violation of the process of this court…” , These were the words of Judge Anthony Leonard as he halted a complex fraud case. The defendants in the case left to walk free, because they were not able to find qualified lawyers willing to represent them under new rates offered by the government for legal aid.
The decision could have wider ramifications for the country’s courts, with several fraud cases in danger of collapsing if lawyers refuse to accept the new rate structure.
Prosecutors had hoped to delay the case, but Leonard said he saw no basis to suspect that skilled lawyers would be available — even with more time.
The judge’s decision means the five men accused of being involved in an alleged property scam are free — subject to any appeal by prosecutors.
Britain’s government has slashed billions from public spending in the name of deficit reduction — arguing that its legal aid system is among the world’s most expensive. It has planned to cut the legal aid budget by 220 million pounds ($360 million) a year through 2019.
But the Criminal Bar Association has argued that the new rates will discourage attorneys from taking on criminal cases, where defendants often rely on state funding for legal representation. The association says the average legal aid earnings of barristers — lawyers who argue in court — was around 36,000 pounds ($59,000) after services tax and expenses. The cuts mean their income will fall 30 percent.
Original Source: ABC News