Grayling ‘hypocrisy’ on legal aid as £1.8m Government spend on unnecessary case revealed

July 3, 2013

The Justice Secretary today attacked the public for bringing “spurious” judicial reviews of Government policy using legal aid – as new documents reveal that ministers’ attempts to contest a JR of the bungled West Coast train contract cost £1.8m in external legal fees.

Chris Grayling was giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Justice Select Committee on his proposed cuts to legal aid – including that available for bringing Judicial Reviews, a key tool by which the public can challenge unlawful Government decisions in court.

During the session, Mr Grayling criticised the public for bringing “too many” “spurious” JRs using legal aid.  However, new accounts from the Department for Transport have shown that its attempt to contest a JR brought against it by Virgin Trains over the West Coast franchise fiasco saw fees paid out to external lawyers of £1.8m – even though the Government decided to concede the case before it ever reached court.

Commenting, Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Chris Grayling should take a long, hard look at his own Government’s ability to waste money on unnecessary legal fees before he goes after a vital public service like legal aid.  It is deeply hypocritical of ministers to criticise the public’s use of Judicial Review, when they themselves are throwing away millions on lawyers for cases where they know they are in the wrong.  It is not enough for him to go back to the drawing board on these legal aid proposals – he should ditch them altogether.  If he is looking for savings, he should consider starting with the legal bungling in his own back yard.”

ENDS

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The figures for spending on legal fees to contest the JR of the West Coast franchise can be found on p61 of the DfT’s Annual Report and accounts: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/209980/annual-report-and-accounts-2012-2013.pdf

3. The DfT initially contested the JR, but conceded and re-ran the bidding process before it had reached court: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19809717