16. What plans he has to ensure that high net worth defendants do not receive legal aid. (148591)
The Ministry of Justice is considering ways in which high net worth defendants can be obliged to pay the costs of their defence privately, without receiving legal aid first. We have also announced measures to strengthen Crown court means-testing to help ensure that defendants who can pay towards their legal aid costs at the Crown court are made to do so. Last night, of course, there were additional provisions to the Crime and Courts Bill, which received its Third Reading in this House.
I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for that encouraging reply, and I thank him for the work he is doing in this area, but does he agree that for far too long these rich defendants have had their cases financed through legal aid by the taxpayer, which is completely unacceptable at a time when he has had to make changes to the legal aid budget? Does he agree that more can still be done to access wealth from frozen accounts?
I very much agree with that, and, of course, the measures in the Crime and Courts Bill open the door to our doing that for the first time. I wish to see us recover funds from those who can afford to pay for their own defence.