Petition Stop Grooming Gang members accessing public funds to fight their convictions
Grooming Gang members who have been charged, convicted and sentenced for raping children or other sexual offences are currently able to access public funds to fight their convictions and/or any deportation efforts. We call on the government to remove their access to public funds.
People convicted of Group-Based Child Sexual Exploitation can spend years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money fighting their convictions. This seems like an abuse of legal aid which is there to help the vulnerable or disadvantaged to achieve justice.
This response was given on 11 October 2021
Any individual accused of a crime has the opportunity to access legal aid, subject to meeting the ‘Interests of Justice’ merits test and satisfying the financial means test.
Decisions about legal aid funding are a matter for the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), which is responsible for administering the criminal and civil legal aid schemes across England and Wales. As the LAA operates independently of Government, Ministers can neither intervene in, nor comment on decisions made about the grant of funding in individual cases.
The legal aid rules, made by Parliament, state that funding should be available if the case is held in a British court and an individual has no means to pay. Access to justice is a fundamental right, and everyone is entitled to the protection of the law regardless of the allegations against them. However, public funding will only be granted if the individual meets the ‘Interests of Justice’ merits test as well as satisfies the financial means test.
The merits test identifies if the individual requires the services of a lawyer and for those facing trial at the Crown Court, this test is always passed. If a lawyer is required, the means test subsequently determines whether the provision of defence services to the defendant should be funded by the state through the criminal legal aid scheme or fall to the individual.
At the Crown Court, criminal legal aid funding is available to all defendants other than where their disposable annual income exceeds £37,500. However, where legal aid is provided, the defendant may be liable to contribute towards their defence costs from their income, and if convicted, may be liable to pay any outstanding defence costs from their capital assets. In order to fulfil its duty to the tax payer, the LAA routinely scrutinises and assesses all Crown Court claims submitted by defence lawyers to ensure that all items of expenditure have been reasonably incurred.
Ministry of Justice
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