GSD calls for less hysterics from Mr. Licudi and more fairness on legal aid
The GSD has expressed surprise at Mr. Licudi’s near hysterical reaction to their comments on his recent reforms of the legal aid rules.
Speaking to the press Daniel Feetham said “we believe our communique on the subject was balanced. These are not easy decisions to make at a time when other jurisdictions are cutting back on public funding of legal proceedings. But the inescapable truth of the matter is that the only cases that will benefit from these reforms are complex fraud cases, of which at the moment, there appears to be only one case. People in the community will be asking themselves why a handful of defendants are being favoured in this way and Mr Licudi has not provided a satisfactory explanation.
There are other types of criminal cases that can be just as exceptionally difficult and complex as some fraud cases. It makes no sense at all to limit the extension just simply to fraud cases and leave out exceptionally difficult and complex cases of a different kind. This is not a rational or serious way of dealing with such reforms.
In addition, of course, many people of moderate means struggling to meet their bills will ask why those accused of fraud should be fast tracked for better treatment and we have, therefore, asked the Government to expedite its legal aid and assistance reform program. That is not an unreasonable point to make and does not call for such a hysterical reaction by the Government.”
The statement continued, “Mr Licudi seems to think only UK Counsel can be expensive to the average man in the street. These reforms in relation to fraud cases allow defendants better and more expensive representation at public expense. To split hairs as he does in his statements, does no good to the Government’s credibility on the issue. We also note that Mr. Licudi believes that he has done more in three months than the GSD did in three years, by deciding to favour a handful of defendants.”
“The fact is that reforming legal aid and legal assistance is a complex matter that concerns both rights to justice and public finance. In any other jurisdiction a Government would have been congratulated for producing a Bill in this area in just three years. It is also noteworthy that our 2008 consultation discussion paper was sent to the GSLP and neither Mr. Licudi nor any of his colleagues bothered to provide us with their views.
Neither did they think we were taking a long time when they were in Opposition because we were never seriously pressed in Parliament about this. After our consultation exercise we had to consider the views of people and sit down with the then Bar Council committee to produce a road map. It is true that a number of drafts where produced, but that is to be expected in an area as important as this. A draft that we were happy with was sent to the Bar Council last year. To say nothing has been achieved, is typical of the spin doctoring that has characterised the Government since it got elected.
No doubt, when our draft gets published Mr. Licudi will do what he did with his CCTV announcement, a project commenced and much of it done in our term, and claim it as a Government manifesto achievement. That is fine by us as long as it gets done.”
Mr Feetham continued “What we would certainly not have done is favoured a handful of defendants, at the moment in one case, to the exclusion of others and that is our criticism. We now hope that Mr Licudi stops making excuses and publishes our Bill or, at least extends the recent changes to the legal aid fees rules to all exceptionally difficult and complex criminal cases irrespective of whether they are fraud cases.”
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