In 2007 Jack Straw said that the cost of legal aid in the UK was the highest in the world at £2.2 BILLION – up from (a mere) £138m in 1980!! Goodness only knows what the figure is now, 3 years on!!!
Clearly, something has to be done to get the costs down and one way would be to look who gets legal aid. I mean, how can it be right that the wealthy, but (allegedly) corrupt MP's who (allegedly) fiddled their expenses can mount what is likely to be a multi-million pound defence thanks to the tax payer and legal aid, when legal aid's denied to those on even moderate incomes??
But more fundamentally than that, the whole thing's a farce and needs a complete overhaul and I'd start with those lawyers who make an indecent living from regularly defending the indefensible.
At the moment there seems to be no down side to lawyers (who must know full well when their clients are as guilty as sin) from actively discouraging a “guilty” plea because this has the distinct disadvantage of resulting in a short trial and small fee. Far better to go for the “not guilty” plea and the resulting full blown “bells and whistles” show trial with the much bigger fee at the end of it!!!
So I’d say that where someone enters a “not guilty” plea THEN ALL THE COSTS SHOULD FALL ON THE DEFENDING LAWYERS IF A “GUILTY” VERDICT IS RETURNED, the tax payer only picking up the bill where the defendant’s original plea is confirmed by a "not guilty" verdict.
This shouldn't be a problem because if the lawyers genuinely believe their client to be innocent then it would only be their own incompetence that failed to get a "not guilty" verdict – and why should the tax payer subsidise legal incompetence?
On the other hand, if the lawyers realise that there’s no chance of winning then they would be daft not to encourage their clients to enter a “guilty” plea.
So, in summary :-
PLEA VERDICT RESULT
NOT GUILTY NOT GUILTY TRIAL FUNDED BY LEGAL AID
NOT GUILTY GUILTY LAWYERS STAND THE COST OF THE TRIAL – TOUGH!
GUILTY GUILTY TRIAL FUNDED BY LEGAL AID
All the above would still be open to the usual appeals etc with the lawyers still carrying the can for clients who continually plead their innocence but who continue to be found guilty at every turn.