The recent Daily Mail article ‘Lawyers raked in £32.2bn in just ONE year: Figure goes up by a quarter in just five years’, dated 2 January 2017, is entirely misleading and uses inflammatory terms about the legal profession – but most damagingly, about the small amount of legal aid practitioners in the profession.
The author makes reference to striking lawyers in the same breath as no win no fee lawyers, showing a staggering ignorance of the subject about which they purport to be informing the public.
The reality is that ultimately only £1.6 bn of this quoted £32.2 bn figure is attributable to legal aid, both criminal and civil.
The disingenuous tone is set through the article’s description of the recent protests on cuts to legal aid, conflating criminal legal aid lawyers with the wider legal profession. In doing so the piece distorts the truth and ignores the particular unique financial challenges facing legal aid practitioners compared to other more prosperous legal sectors such as corporate and banking law, whilst the raison d'être for protests against legal aid cuts, is dismissed as secondary and ignored – referred to only fleetingly without explanation of context.
The article ignores entirely the disastrous effect of recent cuts to legal aid, both in criminal and civil law, denying access to justice for those of meagre means who rely on legal aid in order to seek justice. In many parts of the country there are ‘advice deserts’ but the Daily Mail seems oblivious of this growing crisis. Courts are overwhelmed with unrepresented parties and the justice system is on the verge of collapse. These are facts the newspaper should be reporting instead of misleading the public into believing that all areas of law are 'raking' in billions.
Zoe Gascoyne, Chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) said “The disregard for nuance and simple fact that pervades throughout the article is particularly damaging in the manner it seeks to exploit existing misconceptions about legal aid lawyers in a pernicious way. One would assume their incomes to be substantially higher having read the article. In reality for criminal legal aid since 2001 expenditure is down by 45.2% for police station and Magistrates work, and for Crown Court work (from 2009) is falling by 8.6% soon to be 11%.
"The ramifications of this article could cause irreparable damage to the public perception of the legal profession. This is irresponsible and misleading journalism at its absolute worst. The Daily Mail appear to be intent upon further undermining the judicial system, which at the moment is failing victims and society as a whole on an alarming scale."