End legal aid wasted on millionaire suspects


Millionaire criminal suspects should not be entitled to legal aid to stop tens of millions of pounds being wasted, the former Director of Public Prosecutions said.

Lord Macdonald said it was wrong that defendants with large properties, cars, yachts and other valuable assets were receiving state help to pay their court costs. His call was backed by former terrorism watchdog Lord Carlile of Berriew.

It came as proposals to cut £350million of legal aid spending are debated by peers in Parliament this week. The proposed reforms will remove or restrict legal aid in areas including clinical negligence, welfare, personal injury and divorce in changes that critics claim will hit the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Wealthy suspects with large assets held under "restraint" by the courts will continue to qualify for state help, however, even if the value of their property totals millions of pounds. Ministers claim that the system is justified because legal aid payments can be recouped following a conviction.

But Lord Macdonald, who has tabled an amendment to the planned legislation calling for suspects' restrained assets to be used to meet their legal bills, said that in many cases wealthy criminals failed to pay.

He said that meant taxpayers were "subsidising" well off criminals and that millions of pounds of scarce public funds were being wasted.

Source: London Evening Standard

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