Ritchie Questions Justice Secretary On Draconian Legal Aid Cuts
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) has questioned the UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on the adverse impact of cuts to legal aid in the north of Ireland.
Speaking from the House of Commons Ms Ritchie said: “The legal aid cuts handed down by Westminster and passed on by the Justice Minister David Ford could have a serious impact on people’s capacity to access justice and receive a fair hearing, especially in complicated cases. The collapse of a trial in England last week should be a warning to us.
“Victims have the right to pursue prosecutions in court and correspondingly defendants have a right to a fair defence but these measures put this at risk.
“Our legal system requires everybody in society having the right to a fair hearing and I am deeply worried that cuts to the legal aid system will jeopardise this.
“I am glad that the UK Justice Secretary has discussed this issue with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister but disappointed that both have dismissed these valid concerns and insisted that cutting costs will take priority.
“Certainly there are problems with the current system and we should take action to reduce court costs so that they are in line with those in England and Wales, but this should be done through proper reform rather than being used as a smoke screen for draconian budget cuts.”