Franchises to serve the disenfranchised?

London Criminal Courts Solicitors AssocitionJonathan Black of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association has guest-written an article for today, regarding his views on the potential changes to the criminal justice system.

Do you agree or disagree with his article below? Please post your comments below the article.

Franchises to serve the disenfranchised?

“In the 1970's if you needed dental treatment you would visit one of many high street practices and be seen without charge. As a result of changes to the provision of service implemented by the Thatcher Government, NHS dentists on the high street are now scarce to the point that queues developed when a new surgery opened up on the Yorkshire coast a few years ago.

Yesterday (5th May, 2015) the tender process for provision of on-call duty solicitor services closed. The Government ignored the warnings that these cuts will not only create greater budgetary strain on other public services but also lead to greater risk of miscarriage of justice. An impacted wisdom tooth might cause agony, but you won't spend weeks, months or years wrongfully detained as a result of not being able to access a state-funded dental surgery. One size does not fit all across the sectors and just as triage nurses are encouraged to see NHS patients so as to reduce use of more senior Doctors, the government see a similar role for unqualified paralegals. There is no professional snobbery in what I write, simply a concern that we are moving towards a system of 'unbundling', a mix-and-match model used to sell mobile phone, broadband and satellite packages

Today we read that the Citizens Advice Bureau in Newcastle is set to offer low-cost employment advice services to plug the gap left by LASPO. Whilst justice needs to be accessible this is not the solution. CABs are funded by a mixture of limited central funding and charitable donations, but once they become profit centres they will attract private franchises and then limit those who are able to access them. Just like the high street dental practices, they will only take on a limited number of non paying clients , the rest farmed out elsewhere to the industrial estates . With the prospect of duty solicitor contracting we have seen the potential growth of the ‘legal aid warehouse’, the sports direct of the legal industry, where clients wait to be served by a zero hours worker who doesn't even check if the shoe works before claiming the sale. And we all know the consequences of running with an ill-fitting shoe, yet it is with this recklessness that the Government has approached this latest attempt to remodel our public service.”

Jonathan Black, President of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association

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