The Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling met with Eastbourne solicitors this morning (Friday) over controversial and unpopular reforms to the Legal Aid system.
The Conservative MP spent 40 minutes talking to solicitors and barristers at Rodney Warren in Gildredge Road about the Ministry of Justice’s proposals for slicing £220 million out of the annual legal aid budget.
Last month barristers and solicitors staged a walk out at Lewes Crown Court in protest and held a demonstration on the steps of the building.
There is mounting resentment among lawyers who rely on legal aid payments for both prosecuting and defending criminal cases and say successive reductions in fees since 1997 amount to cuts of 40 per cent of their income.
Legal firms fear they may have to close because of the cuts and there will be systemic miscarriages of justice among people who cannot afford to pay for legal representation.
Among those at this morning’s meeting with the Lord Chancellor were Rodney Warren, Madeleine Priestley, Christos Christou, Dan Harrison, Adrian Carter, Ben Kaplinsky, Yolanda Pons, Tony Waller and Paul Summerbell.
Also present was Eastbourne Conservative’s MP hopeful Caroline Ansell.
The Lord Chancellor said he was in a difficult position and appreciated their concerns but that the British Legal Aid system was the most expensive in the world and his department had to make cuts to meet a reduction in government money.
The Ministry of Justice has been working with several organisations including the Law Society and a report on the reforms is due to be published soon.
The Lord Chancellor said there was little that could be done about the reforms but that he hoped the transition period would be as smooth as possible.