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Previous government has already cut legal aid for prisoners there is no need for further cuts say experts (24 April 2013)

Date: 24/04/2013
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Previous government has already cut legal aid for prisoners there is no need for further cuts say experts

The claim of justice secretary that millions were being spent on lawyers for thousands of prisoners who wanted to make complaints was not true.
Eric Allison the prison correspondent for Guardian has said it did not match the reality.
Earlier this month justice secretary Chris Grayling said convicted criminals could be barred from claiming legal aid services fund wasteful complaints about the prison system.
He said it was appalling to see taxpayers money being spent on cases brought up by the prisoners unnecessarily. These cases could be handled by the prison service’s internal complaints system. The changes would save £4m a year and cut the number of cases by 11,000.
But lawyers have questioned his figures. A managing solicitor for the Prisoner’s Advice Service (PAS), which provides free prison law advice, says legal aid for all prisoner complaints was removed by the previous government in 2010.
Those lawyers who like to take such cases must now get prior authority from the Legal Aid Agency, which has granted something for only 20 or so cases in the last three years.
The solutions for such cases were not with the internal complaints procedures which could fail prisoners. PAS acted for a prisoner who had been upgraded to category B status after being falsely accused of involvement in a near riot. This could have delayed his release by years.
But when he appealed his paperwork was found to have had repetitive errors such as mentioning his previous category as C when he was in fact category D, his prison sentence was for murder which was in fact GBH and that he had been moved from open conditions after six days for behaviour issues whereas he had been in open prison for two years without incident and returned to closed conditions to be assessed for a course.
These glaring errors were put right only after PAS had taken the route of judicial review.
When Allison asked Grayling about how many prisoners were granted legal aid to pursue complaints in 2012 and how he calculated that there would be savings of £4m a year and 11,000 fewer cases Mr Grayling replied that he was appalled again that taxpayers pay millions every year supplying lawyers for prisoners and the great majority of complaints should be dealt with by the prison service he failed to answer specific questions put to him.

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