12 Apr 2010

Legal Aid and a Lack of Integrity

I was aghast when I heard the news on the radio this evening that MPs on fraud charges are entitled to legal aid.

Along, no doubt, with 90% of the Country, something Cameron latched on to with alacrity. With the speed of a Daily Mail reporter and just as little finesse.

However, some basic research into the story provides a (fairly) reasonable explanation.

Currently Legal Aid in the UK is not "means tested" as the benefits system is.

Rather than it being based on equitable assets, income and outgoings, the principle behind allowing David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine to claim legal aid defense is that they may be at risk of losing their liberty.

And the liberal in me cries out, they have not been tried yet.

Article 6, the Right to a Fair Trial is one of the cornerstones of the British Legal System.

Yet the Britsh Public, and so the British Media, are quick to judge in the advent of the Expenses scandal.


But I am still thrown by the audacity of the Labour MPs to even complete the form for legal aid.

Given that the "Interests of Justice" test is being phased out in favour of a means tested test, it is even more audacious of MPs on a minimum of £64,766 to effectively plead inability to fund their own legal expenses.

On a basic salary of £856.20 per week after tax, it makes a mockery of the Labour government that has left 40% of pensioners living in poverty.

This is without even considering that the attempted to escape all charges by claiming Parliamentary privilege at the beginning of the year.

With the disillusioned and angry electorate, they seem to be flaunting their lack of integrity in the face of the British public.

This is the reason predominantly at the outrage over the revelations made today, but we must keep in mind that they have been convicted of fraud, by the legal definition, anyway.

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