Is justice being done?

MISCARRIAGES of justice are waiting to happen because of legal delays in Weston - lawyers are warning. Long delays are being caused by new rules that mean legal aid can not be granted at North Somerset Magistrates Court in St Georges. Defence lawyers say

MISCARRIAGES of justice are waiting to happen because of legal delays in Weston - lawyers are warning.Long delays are being caused by new rules that mean legal aid can not be granted at North Somerset Magistrates Court in St Georges. Defence lawyers say the delays could anger magistrates, making cases harder to fight and defendants will often end up choosing to represent themselves.Veteran duty solicitor Paul Penny said: "They have taken away from the courts the power to grant legal aid and transferred it to the a central office in Bristol."Defendants aren't getting legal representation because solicitors simply can't submit a legal application."The court won't allow us to fax the form, so we are having to go back to our offices to do it. It takes hours."On Monday we had a man with mental illness who elected to deal with himself and asked to have his case heard at crown court, which I would have advised against."That day we had five cases and only brought the first one before magistrates at 3.45pm. They would normally start at 10.30am."People are going to try to deal with cases themselves and make the wrong decisions in front of frustrated magistrates and judges."Anyone who's concerned about justice should be really worried because there's a risk that there will be miscarriage after miscarriage of justice in Weston magistrates court and every court in the country."But Martin Brennan, district manager for the Legal Services Commission, formerly the Legal Aid Board, said: "An early cover payment of £75 is available to cover lawyers representing people appearing in court for the first time, whether someone qualifies for legal aid or not."Lawyers have two days to get this form to us if someone is at liberty, or five days if they are in custody.


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