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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

Justice and the overwhelming role of money

Recent examples of the effect of money on justice

In May 2008 a confiscation hearing was abandoned because a drug offender could not find a barrister to represent him for a legal aid fee. The offender had been sentenced to imprisonment for conspiring to supply cannabis. His assets of £4.5 million were frozen pending proceedings to confiscate one-third of the total on the basis that they were the product of a criminal lifestyle.

The offender could not use his assets to pay for representation: this is prohibited under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

His solicitor is reported to have commented that he contacted 30 sets of barristers’ chambers but could find no-one to take the case for the set legal aid fee of £175 per day.

The court ruled that the proceedings should be terminated because a fair hearing could not take place without representation.

There are few clearer examples than this of the relationship between justice and money.

In May 2014 a £5 million fraud trial was halted following submissions by David Cameron’s brother that

legal aid cuts had resulted in a lack of competent defence

barristers. The case involved 46,000 pages of evidence.

Solicitors for the defence had contacted a total of 69 sets

of Chambers, none of whom were prepared to take on

the case.

Trial without jury

In January 2010 the first Crown Court criminal trial to be held without a jury in England and Wales for more than 350 years took place. This was justified by fears of jury tampering, and specifically that the cost of measures such as the services of police officers needed to protect jurors from interference was too high. The sentences imposed ranged from 15 to 20 years. Evidence of jury tampering was not disclosed to the defence.

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