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UK court rejects challenge to legal aid cuts

The England and Wales High Court [official website] on Monday rejected a lawsuit [judgment] by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners' Advice Service (PAS) [advocacy websites] challenging planned government cuts to legal aid for prisoners. The charitable organizations challenged the legal aid cuts [Howard League press release], which were enacted in December, on the grounds that it would undermine prisoners' rights and rehabilitation and that taxpayers would ultimately pay more as a result. The High Court ruled [BBC report] that while concerns over the cuts are understandable, those concerns do not constitute unlawful action. The court further noted that the organizations should advance their concerns through a political, rather than legal, forum. Both Howard League and the PAS [press releases] have indicated their intent to appeal the ruling.

Lawyers and legal organizations in the UK have responded critically to the cuts to legal aid in the UK. In January thousands of criminal trial lawyers in the UK staged a half-day strike [JURIST report] to protest planned government cuts to legal aid that would reduce their pay by up to 30 percent. In June the UK Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent public body that investigates miscarriages of justice, warned that the government's proposed changes to legal aid could increase the likelihood of convictions of vulnerable or mentally ill suspects. Earlier that month the Law Society [press release] described the proposals as "unworkable" and likely to cause "catastrophic" damage to the UK's legal aid system. Also in June, the Bar Council released a press release [text] criticizing the proposals.

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