Updated: Thursday, 2nd April 2020 @ 8:03pm

Legal aid protestors to target Ministry of Justice consultation after march through Manchester

Legal aid protestors to target Ministry of Justice consultation after march through Manchester

By Danielle Wainwright

Protestors will march across the streets of Manchester tomorrow and rally outside the venue of a Ministry of Justice consultation against government plans to reform the criminal legal aid system.

Starting at Manchester Crown Court at 4.20pm, the march will reach The Palace Hotel on Oxford Road at 5pm where the Ministry of Justice will be discussing proposals for a legal aid revamp.

The plan that has been put forward would save £220million from the legal aid budget by removing the ability for a defendant to choose their own lawyers, removing the principal of competition on quality and quartering the number of legal aid firms.

The protestors argue that the removal of legal aid could devastate the sector and may mean a lack of skilled defending for complex cases such as computer crime, protest situations and fraud.

The President of the Law Society, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that introducing price competition was going to require change in the way justice is delivered.

She also said that the timescale in which the government plans to implement the changes was unrealistic.

"It will take much longer to do properly, and if it's not done properly then we are going to end up with miscarriages of justice, with people being stuck in prison far longer than they should be on remand, with witnesses not turning up, with cases not being properly prepared," she said.

"It's a huge, huge risk."

However, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has expressed that legal aid is costing too much, and the plans are to ensure that every penny of the budget is well spent.

Lawyers can also make thousands of pounds from only a few cases, with wealthy criminals applying for legal aid with taxpayer money.

Also attending the protest tomorrow will be speakers Robert Lizar, Peter Weatherby and Jennifer Hilliard, mother of Chris and Andrew Hilliard acquitted of violent disorder during student protests.

They will speak about their experiences of how legal aid has helped them.

The group will rally on the steps of Manchester Crown Court, march past the People’s History Museum and then onto the Palace Hotel just in time for the Ministry of Justice’s 5.30pm consultation.

Image via WikiCommons, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.