Thursday, 9 June 2011

Is Legal Aid falling to pieces allready? Ask Violet

A barrister phones me. Violet is a smart dedicated barrister of impeccable socialist principles in the ways that matter. She knows and cares about the clients. She argues smart law.

She wants to know when we can have a Legal Aid Certificate. Without this none of us is paid.

“Yes” I say, “I think it's just arrived. Sorry about the delays” - at present the LSC are processing correspondence from 20 April (we're talking emergency applications here). Papers get lost. Requests for reviews of batty costs decisions take a year. Emergency legal aid runs out after 28 days and you spend hours trying to secure emergency cover.

Hours of my time are spent listening to Vivaldi's “Four Seasons”.

Meanwhile, if our papers are sent back after 12 days because the client's name isn't spelt out in BLOCK CAPITALS underneath the signature on p12 of one of the forms (I am not joking) they limit your cover to 5 days because you did not submit the forms "properly completed". 
Explanations of "good reason" receive short shrift e.g my 70 year old secretary had to go to bail her schizophrenic alcoholic daughter out of police/hospital? UH UH! Not good enough. 

My partner had a heart attack and my world went to pieces? Still not good enough.

The sad thing is the staff at the LSC hate it too. These are bright friendly people who want to work, often are legally trained, and are located all over Britain.

Meanwhile, soon we won't be able to grant Legal Aid any-more, so when a homeless family come in we'll sign the forms, send them off and tell mum with tots to come back in 11 weeks or so, if they're lucky.
What are we supposed to do? Kick them out onto the streets?

Violet. The Legal Aid system is taking a heck of a hit already. But I recommend to you the Parliamentary inquiry by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and Young Legal Aid Lawyers which you may find here

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