“Particularly worrying for us here in Carmarthenshire is the proposal to have only four legal firms in the whole of the Dyfed Powys area who will be allowed to do legal aid work, and no choice for clients over who to go to. That ignores the reality that legal aid services are currently provided by many small local firms, who will not be in a position to compete against the likes of G4S and hauliers Eddie Stobart who have shown an interest in tendering for the work. Clients could have to travel miles to access justice. And before we fall into the trap of stereotyping the clients, remember going to court can be just as much about proving your innocence and clearing your name, such as a the case of a paramedic falsely accused of assault by a drunken reveller he is trying to help
Furthermore the exclusion from legal aid of the preparation for judicial review will make it much more difficult to hold public bodies to account for their decisions; so often in fighting for the provision of services for a disabled child or an elderly relative, just the initial stages of judicial review are enough to shame the authority concerned into action.
These proposals seriously threaten the fundamental right to a fair trial, and I will continue to lobby the government to have a complete re-think.”