Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Justice Minister is right on legal costs concerns

I have followed with interest the attempts by the legal profession, hiding behind clients' interests, to protect their income paid by the public purse.

When I was in Parliament I supported Lord Hailsham as he curtailed such costs in England. We were unable to include Northern Ireland at the time because the civil service resisted on the specious grounds that we had a separate corpus of law, although Scotland had a longer separate corpus and yet Westminster was able to legislate for Scotland.

My late colleague Harold McCusker had argued that barristers should become public defenders when, if my memory is correct, they earned £250,000 per annum. Is there also a fault in the defence of the present system as they argue that accused would not get the best service from a public defender? Are we then to conclude that the prosecution of accused is not best served by public prosecutors?

Specious arguments do not deal with the growing demands on taxpayers and the Justice Minister's concern is to be welcomed and supported, especially when a few seek to stop those who would do the work.

Rev W M Smyth

Belfast

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