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Old 17th May 2013, 02:57 PM
splitcane splitcane is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: London
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Default Appalling legal aid proposals: end of expert fire arms representation

I posted this in a couple of other forums earlier today (AAOC and PigeonWatch). I hope no-one minds if I put it up here, too. It's important, it especially affects airgunners (I think), and it needs resisting.

For those who have not seen the relevant issue of Shooting Times, there are murky deeds afoot in the Ministry of Justice which will affect everyone who owns a gun, and perhaps especially an air weapon.

This explains. It's something everyone who shoots should be up in arms about (pun intended, although not quite literally, of course). ... ports.html

And this is what people can do about it:

It's a petition on the official Government web site. 43,000 odd signatures and rising at the moment.

For those who want a shorter summary:

The Department of Justice is proposing to change the rules for legal aid so that those arrested for criminal offences who wish to have legal aid must accept a duty solicitor to represent them. The proposals would end the right to nominate expert representation of one's own, including experts in firearms legislation. You get who you're told.

Solicitors will come from one of a number of designated approved firms. These would be paid a fixed rate per case, whether the plea is guilty or not.

Generalist solicitors at criminal law are likely neither to understand the complexities of specialist legislation, nor to have existing relationships with or knowledge of barristers expert enough in firearms legislation to provide really good representation should the matter come to court. In addition, the fixed fee per case will almost inevitably lead to these firms putting pressure on clients to enter a guilty plea in order to minimise their costs, no matter what the facts of the case or the truth might be. Mitigation is far less time consuming than defending a not guilty plea. Firms currently showing interest in bidding to be recognised as an approved firm include G4 and, of all people, Eddie Stobart (who currently still pay their drivers 7 an hour, I gather, so clearly a generous and philanthropic outfit).

For shooters (of all sorts) these are potentially disastrous suggestions, especially given the recent discussions here about the laws governing the conditions under which air weapons are classified as requiring a Fire Arms Certificate - an area of law rife with confusion and misunderstanding.

Don't be put off signing the petition by the fact that it does not specifically mention shooting. Firearms is only one of many categories that will be affected. This is something against which the whole shooting community - all the shooting communities - should mobilise. If you can Tweet or Facebook to publicise the proposals, and the petition against them, further, so much the better.

There is now a House of Commons Early Day Motion about this. See here for details:

And summary in the best legal tradition of caustic irony here: ... r-justice/
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