But already I feel uneasy about the recommendations. Bazley lays into the legal profession. Much of her report focuses on bad or corrupt lawyers. And I'm not pretending those people don't exist. But Bazley doesn't get to play judge, jury and executioner. Take this quote:
Some lawyers appear to be acting corruptly, and should be disbarred.She's clearly obsessed with bad lawyers. If she was writing more dispassionately she would have said:
There is evidence some lawyers may be acting corruptly. They should be investigated.But I'm not trying to stick up for bad lawyers. I am uncomfortable, however, with her suggestion that up to 200 of them may be corrupt. That number doesn't sound right. And what does she mean by "corrupt"?
Bazley fails to mention, or downplays, some of the other reasons why the legal aid system is so poor. Those reasons include:
- inadequate court resources
- an inability by the system to cope with the "tough on crime" approach of the last few governments
- police over-charging, then dropping charges at the last minute
- the complete unreliability of so many clients, who won't show up for meetings or court appearances
- the fact legal aid lawyers are dreadfully remunerated, so that many are forced to work from their "car-boots", and so that many of the brightest move into other areas of legal work
- excessive paperwork.
And if you think that I would make these arguments because I'm a lawyer, I don't do legal aid, haven't gone anywhere near the legal aid system since I was a junior in the mid-90s, and don't actually know any legal aid lawyers. I just hate to see a group of hard-working people constantly vilified.