A double murder trial in Melbourne has been halted after the Judge decided legal aid cuts were so severe, the accused could not be ensured a fair trial.
The judge said recent legal aid cuts, which denied the accused an instructing solicitor for the duration of his trial, were “incompatible with the proper, timely and just administration of criminal justice.”
Last night, Scots solicitors said that the case heralded a possible outcome of the legal aid changes in Scotland which have seen the introduction of accused persons paying contributions towards the cost of the state case against them.
Criminal defence solicitor Urfan Dar of Beltrami & Co said the cumulative effect of cuts over the years amounted to “clear oppression”, and a similar argument to halt a trial could be raised at the High Court in Scotland.
Andrew Houston of McSporrans defence solicitors said that Lord Turnbull openly emphasised the need for adequately resourced defence to ensure fairness in a recent trial.
This was the second case to be halted in Melbourne for the same reason within a week. Justice Terence Forrest warned that more would follow unless the trend was reversed.
“’If I am correct, the unfortunate effect of [ ] cost constraints is that many criminal trials will be postponed for as long as the cost-cutting protocol survives. This is incompatible with the proper, timely and just administration of criminal justice,” he said.
The Civil Justice and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill was passed into law earlier this year.
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