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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78751 Find in a Library
Title: Criminal Legal Services - Gifts or Millstones?
Journal: Criminal Law Review  Dated:(February 1980)  Pages:84-90
Author(s): M King
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 7
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article discusses the reforms in criminal legal services proposed by the Royal Commission of the United Kingdom; terms of reform and perceived weaknesses are emphasized.
Abstract: The Royal Commission proposes legal aid as a right of all defendants except those triable only by magistrates, the abolition of contributions for legally aided suspects at police stations and defendants in magistrates' courts, duty solicitor schemes operating in all magistrates' courts and prisons, legal aid for appeals against refusal of bail, separate representation for parents and children in care cases, and a right of appeal against contribution orders in the Crown Court. However, the article suggests that this proposed blanket right to legal aid ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of defendants in criminal cases are not involved in adversarial proceedings. Most defendants appear in court to plead guilty and to be sentenced. The commission's proposals go much further than simply advocating free advice; they provide for actual representation in court, even in cases where such representation is unjustified and unnecessary. These proposals raise questions of priority. A realistic examination of priorities must involve the whole spectrum of unmet needs and the whole range of legal services. The commissioners should have concentrated on the actual needs of defendants in criminal cases. Issues which should have been considered include determining what skills and knowledge most defendants lack which lawyers can provide, developing ways of compensating for such deficiencies by changes in procedures rather than by providing more lawyers, and establishing methods of predicting the need for lawyers' services before cases come to court. Many services to defendants could be provided adequately by a duty solicitor, thus eliminating the need for actual representation and related costs. The article includes four footnotes.
Index Term(s): Court appointed counsel; Criminal proceedings; Defender systems; Defense services; Indigents; Law reform; Legal aid services; Right to counsel; United Kingdom (UK)
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